Is Lack of Mobile Health Interoperability Holding Us Back?

Today during the #HITChicks chat, there was a great discussion with two really amazing healthcare IT professionals, Patty Sheridan and Tamara StClaire, about the need for interoperability between mobile health apps. Here’s where it started:

Then, I pushed Tamara a bit to talk more about the subject:

What a strong and important statement from Tamara. I agree completely that we’ll miss out on so much of the value that mobile health apps can provide if we don’t find out a way for apps to share data. Interoperability of health data has been an extremely important topic. In fact, ONC has put out a 10 year plan on how to have interoperability in healthcare. However, in all of the things I’ve read about interoperability of healthcare data, they’re always talking about sharing healthcare data between healthcare providers and provider data with patients. I don’t remember anyone ever talking about sharing health data between mobile health apps. The closest I’ve seen is making the patient the HIE of one that gathers and shares data between apps.

If no ones talking about mobile health data sharing, will it ever happen? Since Tamara tweeted her comment. I’ve been trying to think of the pathway to achieve her vision of shared mobile health data between disparate applications. Will it happen? Who will make it a reality? What are your thoughts?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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.


  • There is a model for just such a platform, the patient data custodian model. In this model, the custodian is an agent of the patient responsible for the storage and retrieval of patient data. In our implementation, the platform is a shared patient resource database platform. Data is exposed, thru REST APIs, by a layer marshalling data in and out of the patient record mediated by structural rules(standards) and privacy rules dictated by the patient. Other owners of data can also dictate rules to restrict access(privacy/security) to the data they’ve stored in the patient record. This is how moble apps can post data that can be shared with other apps or not. This allows apps to collaborate on data. Device apps can post data to be used by other cooperating apps.

    The whole thinking on integration is wrong. We want interop with THE patient record, not the pieces that various apps (EHR, apps, devices, etc.) may have (silos) and are often wrong or duplications.

  • Tim,
    The model you describe is what I called the patient as the HIE. I’ll be interested to see how that model evolves. Most patients don’t really care. So, it’s going to have to be a really seamless system if they’re going to be the ones managing it.

    I think you’re taking the right approach for that model. I’ll be interested to see how well it goes. I think it will be a challenge to get patients on board with it. The exception might be chronic patients.

  • John:
    Patient participation need only be for the authorization of access to their record, something they would do at the physician’s office in the way that they do HIPAA authorization today.

    Our implementation is also as a data custodian for the other healthcare stakeholders; physicians, hospitals, payers, as they relate to the patient. EHRs, payer programs, patient engagement, etc. would work off the custodian data. This provides the interop that everyone is looking for. It also offers data by which HHS/CMS can perform their oversight and fraud protection within the defined security/privacy rules.

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