Compute is everywhere, but where is the data?

February 25th, 2019 / By AJ Dandrea

It has been over twenty years since the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996. The first part of the acronym stands out to me because it sounds so simple, “health information portability.” I wonder about my own health data: How portable is it? Why can’t I simply track my entire health history and have an interface for every interaction I have had in the computer age?

The problem isn’t the information itself, but the lack of portability.

I think about the Cloud and how easy it is to have infrastructure around the world. In the United States alone, there are over 300 Cloud providers who have revenue in the millions. We know the leaders are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, so I was excited to learn that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan partnered to reduce wasteful spending and improve services. I imagine this will center around the portability of their own resource data to create employer and employee symbiotic analytics. I can only guess at the technology their company will use, but I can imagine the data will be quite portable.  

The typical healthcare interaction is small, roughly 16 kilobytes. This is the average size of an interaction from our own 3M software embedded in our partner electronic medical record applications that serve both inpatient and outpatient encounters. It takes milliseconds to transfer the data and include our 3M value-add, returning the data to our partners for use in providing care. Again, our challenge isn’t the portability, but making the data portable. Every “new” system created should consider application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect and allow secure interactions to use the data.

If I think about all the health-related interactions I have had for the last forty years and how “big” that data would be, most likely it would only add up to less than one megabyte. I can transfer that one megabyte around the world in seconds. Wouldn’t it be great if I could request all that data and get it in seconds? I would even wait a minute if it meant that it could be used in my care by trusted professionals.

Is there a check box in an application somewhere that I can check to get all my data?

AJ Dandrea is operations manager of the cloud hosting organization at 3M Health Information Systems.