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Highway to health: Unlocking whole patient care through data interoperability

Health IT doesn't have a lot in common with the U.S. interstate highway system, but there are similarities. Both are (semi) governed networks of exchange. Their pathways come in various ages and conditions, which can make or break the experiences of the people that rely upon them as infrastructure. And whether it’s providers using health IT software or drivers on an interstate, it’s not comfortable when things are bumpy.

Healthcare providers—top travelers along the health data highway—are facing some potholes indeed: the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted difficulties exchanging health information across federal, state, and private systems, and up to 25% of U.S. health system spending may be considered waste, much of which relates to information breakdowns. Most acutely, today’s healthcare staff burnout epidemic is, in part, an interoperability problem. According to 2021 research from Wakefield and Olive.AI, 36% of clinicians spent more than half their day on administrative tasks and 72% expected this time allotment to increase over the next 12 months. KLAS Research reports that clinicians’ likelihood of leaving their organizations is correlated to dissatisfaction with their health IT software.

But the healthcare industry is gearing up for a data interoperability overhaul. Health systems and insurers are rushing to comply with Cures Act data portability requirements before 2022-2023 deadlines, while digital health companies are feeling pressure from enterprise buyers to corral the “Cambrian explosion” of point solutions into unified or interoperable care platforms. Not to mention, data-first technology players are stepping more meaningfully into healthcare, as exemplified by Oracle’s acquisition of EHR vendor Cerner. In concert with all this industry activity, funding for U.S.-based health data infrastructure and interoperability startups totaled $2.2B in 2021, nearly tripling the $736M raised in 2020. Following broader digital health funding trends, venture cash for health data infrastructure and interoperability startups has tempered in 2022, despite logging a solid $260M through May 2022.1

In this piece, we’ll review the interoperability-focused digital health players and solutions helping providers exchange and integrate patient data, while also guiding innovators toward areas where interoperability innovation stands to unlock new business models and opportunities for care delivery.


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