The Marvels of Technology Missing in Health IT

I’m currently on the long flight from Las Vegas to New York City. The early flight time and long flight remind me why I prefer to just stay in Las Vegas with the occasional west coast trip, but I digress. In order to not lose an entire day of work on the airplane, I spent far too much for the overpriced internet service on my flight. As I’m traveling at 30,000 feet, it’s amazing to me that I’m connected nearly as good as when I’m sitting at home. Sure, in flight internet has been around for quite a while, but it still amazes me. What will amaze me even more is when the internet is free on every flight. Maybe pharma ads could pay for this too.

While experiencing this amazing connectivity, I can’t help but think of how poor so much of the connectivity in healthcare is. That’s right. We can find a way to offer internet connectivity at 30,000 feet in an aircraft moving hundreds of miles per hour and yet we can’t get connectivity to rural hospitals and other healthcare locations?

Plus, even speaking more broadly, I can access all of my normal services from an airplane, but for some reason I have no way to connect all of my healthcare data together.

Those in the industry realize the problems. The challenge of connecting all of our healthcare data from the various EHR (or maybe in this case EMR is appropriate) data silos is an academic exercise that’s easily accomplished. Hit any of the interoperability showcases at HIMSS or other healthcare IT events and you’ll see EHR software vendors communicating with each other and sharing data. Why then can’t we make this a reality?

The challenges are still the same they’ve been for a long time now: funding and politics.

I still cringe to think of the missed opportunity that ARRA and the HITECH Act could have provided in this regard. Instead of incentivizing use of an EMR, they should have and could have incentivized interoperability of healthcare data. The great part is that you’re not going to start exchanging data in healthcare without an EHR so you’d be getting more EHR software adopted and interoperability. Water under a bridge now I guess, but it keeps eating at me.

My biggest hope now is that a grass roots movement will form that will drive what we should be doing anyway. Everyone knows and understands the benefits to healthcare and the patient of exchanging healthcare data. It’s easy to make the case for how patient care improves and how duplicate costs are avoided. We need more people that are willing to hop on board interoperability of healthcare data cause it’s the right thing to do. Sure, we need to do it in a smart and reasonable way, but the ROI of healthcare data exchange goes well beyond dollars and cents. This ROI can’t be put on a spreadsheet, but instead will help us all sleep better at night.

Are there any movements like this out there? I can’t say I’ve seen any, but I’d love to see one. Then, we’d have a real beacon community that’s set on a hill because it earned and deserved the recognition as opposed to beacon communities paid for by tax payers.

Side Note: I’ll be in NYC this week at the Digital Health Conference and at the mHealth Summit in DC next week. I’m already planning to meet a number of my readers at these events, but I’d love to meet more.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • I don’t see a grass root movement coming this way.

    Two of the biggest technology companies ever have shown that “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to medical records.
    Microsoft couldn’t get it to happen.

    Google can’t get it to happen.

    The reality is, most people don’t care about access to their medical records. Sad but true.

    If I try to think why this is, I realize that I don’t really care about access to my records.
    Heck the only reason I have a primary physician is because my medical coverage asks for one…I’ve never met the guy.

    What do you want to bet the #1 exclusion in Meaningful Use will be that nobody requested their medical records during the 90 day period?

  • John,
    You don’t care about managing your records, but you do care when you get charged twice for the same test because your next doctor doesn’t have the record from the first doctor. Things like that matter. I agree that patients aren’t going to manage their records. At least healthy patients won’t. However, doctors could exchange the information and achieve some of the same benefits.

  • Yes, there is a grassroots movement. where the IP is owned by all participants so it can’t be monopolized. It is based on more than 2 decades of R&D.

    The only problem is that it isn’t ‘sexy’ so it doesn’t attract investors. Also, the problem can’t be explained in a 6 min. elevator pitch so it doesn’t meet the A.D.D. behavior of investors. Existing healthcare IT companies make more money by NOT adopting this approach.

    So we are here, we are open and welcoming. Please participate. 🙂

  • @John
    Ah – now you are talking Practice Management (PM) not EHR.
    Apples & oranges.
    Two different worlds.
    Medical offices have been on PMs for a long time.
    The bottom line – you can quickly and easily show an ROI with a PM.

    Additionally, people barely care what their healthcare costs – assuming they have medical coverage – as all they mostly see is a co-pay. Since most people only deal with that co-pay, then up to a certain deductible…inefficiency beyond that doesn’t matter to the patient – this, in my opinion is one of the leading factors of health care costs being out of control.

    The fact that neither Google or MS could get people interested in their medical records shows people generally don’t care. The site you mention has long way to go if they think they are going to make an impact. I about fell asleep reading the first page…I’d rather drive to my physicians office and have them print my records for me.

    Remember – I’m in this industry, I want the EHR world to succeed and take off. Yet, I’m also a user nothing out there has interested me as a patient to care about this. I, also, am fortunate to be blessed with good health and a healthy family. I know that those not as fortunate have different needs & desires of our health care industry.

  • “Instead of incentivizing use of an EMR, they should have and could have incentivized interoperability of healthcare data.”

    This is right on so many levels. The explosion of EMR startups, few of which will easily pass data to anyone else’s EMR and the fact that with this focus, the companies who build interfaces will be rolling in the money for a long time to come. Washington created exactly the wrong incentive.

  • @Matt: Washington rarely comes up with proper incentives. What the government should have done was told everyone to go to AVista.

    We would then see a huge amount of development in an open source product that could turn something that is rough into a great system…and everyone’s data could be shared properly.

  • @John

    If a behemoth like Centricity can work in a single doc practice, then AVista can be made to work.
    Note: 5 servers, yes servers, to run all the add-ons at a single doc office – crazy!

    The problem with it is like with linux…”spooky” and unknown.

    BUT if some serious “apps” were made for it, who knows.

  • John,
    Your comments about behemoth and number of servers is why Vista won’t be in small practices and will only show up with those that own a lot of practices or really large group practices.

  • First, I’ve been calling it the wrong thing…VistA is correct.

    Second, I have no notion that it is ready for prime time…heck, I just spend 10 minutes on the site and couldn’t fine server requirements…

    It does run on a linux server which is a huge bonus.

    Make not mistake, the reason the 3rd party add-ons require additional servers is NOT because of the required computing power.


    It is merely for simplicity sake…for the vendor.

    Most only allow their software on a server. I had to go to battle to get another piece of software loaded on a stand alone server…that was written by the SAME vendor!

    No, not power requirements…lazy vendors.

    Given the appropriate Gov push to VistA might have pushed VistA to grow into something really usable.

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