With the rise of self-managed healthcare applications and the announcement of centralized data storage methods, like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit, the capture and consolidation of health data is easier and more powerful than ever. But will that really spur the evolution everyone in healthcare is hoping for?
While we at StoneArch are encouraged and excited about these new tools, there are a couple of things that could hold back their widespread acceptance by the health industry.
The first and perhaps most important is standardization. As software and hardware companies race to be the first and the best in the mobile and online health business, they only further perpetuate the propriety hold on healthcare data. This makes perfect sense from a business perspective; differentiating yourself from your competition is Business 101, but in the world of data, proprietary systems make extensive adoption a near-impossibility.
This has already come to pass in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) industry. It is not uncommon for us to run across clients that are limited in what they can do with the data they collect with the EMR systems they have chosen. In larger organizations you may even have two or more large systems running side by side that will not talk to each other, and millions of dollars are spent trying to integrate them. Even worse, oftentimes the scale and cost of integration is so great that truly helpful and even lifesaving ideas are abandoned due to the complexity and cost of making them a reality. When we hear about new technology like HealthKit and Google Fit, we are intrigued but worried that similar problems will emerge.
Perhaps it is time for companies to work together to free the data generated by healthcare technology– and they need not look very hard for a possible solution. For many years StoneArch Learning has worked with a data standardization model that has freed data without stemming technical innovation and competition: SCORM.
SCORM, or Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a collection of technical standards and specifications for eLearning that allows for sharing of data between online training courses and the systems that manage them, Learning Management Systems (LMS). Utilizing SCORM, StoneArch Learning can develop eLearning programs for any client that has a SCORM-compliant LMS (of which nearly all are). This standardization frees up the data gathered from learners to be shared almost universally.
SCORM has been around for years and continues to evolve today. xAPI, a much more flexible and powerful standard that may be tailored for adoption by the healthcare industry was released in 2013. So you may be asking, who came up with such a flexible standard? What company had the foresight and resources to develop this standard? Well, it was not developed by any company; it was developed by the U.S. Government, specifically, the Department of Defense. The DoD created the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative in 1999 that later developed the first SCORM standard in 2000. The DoD was trying to develop the most efficient and effective way to consistently train soldiers across the globe.
Now imagine a similar standard in the healthcare industry, one specifically designed to share data between organizations, systems and people. Freeing healthcare data to easily and securely flow from one application or system to another could bring about the evolution we have all be dreaming of.
This dream would not necessarily take a government initiative to become a reality, either. Many industries and nonprofits have developed similar learning standards, from the nonprofit IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) to the industry association, Aviation Industry Computer-based Training Committee (AICC). What it will take is the combined will of the tech and healthcare industries to demand a standard be developed and to agree that it must be beneficial for everyone. Then maybe the big announcements like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit can bring about the transformative change we all hope for.