Free the Data!

January 16th, 2013 / By Jeremy Zasowski

Anyone heard of ING Direct (just acquired by Capital One and soon to become Capital One 360) and their Orange online banking and savings accounts? Ever used PayPal? These two disparate organizations are connected by one shared characteristic: there aren’t any physical locations for these companies—you interact with them completely online. If you want to ditch your local bank and move your money to an online bank, all you need is an internet connection and your account numbers. If you want to send money to someone, or pay for online purchases through PayPal, all you have to do is link PayPal to your credit card or bank account.

Today, you can easily get access from just about anywhere to your online banking and financial information. You can move your money where you choose, switch banks, open new accounts, invest in stocks, or blow your savings on new shoes and online poker—all without having to ask anyone for permission or build a new interface to allow your money to go where you want it to. The banking, financial, and what I’ll call the online commerce/credit card markets are all secure (or as secure as the internet can be) and fairly open to allow interfacing or communication with other systems.

Our financial data and our money can easily and seamlessly move between multiple systems from multiple companies, with a rather high degree of safety and security. Companies with new ideas or solutions can open up shop, tell new consumers what they are offering, and easily allow consumers to access their products or services. The consumers or users they are targeting can link their existing accounts to the new products fairly effortlessly and take advantage of what the new company is offering. PayPal is one example: I can use PayPal to send money from my local bank to a person or bank on the other side of the planet.  A person can link their bank account to any number of other accounts or systems. Companies like TD Ameritrade and eTrade are other examples. With the solutions these companies offer, you can link your bank accounts to online brokerages and invest in Apple or Ford, check your stock portfolio performance, and analyze all the data you can get your hands on. This openness, backed by data security, leads to innovation and benefits for users of these online systems. Today, no one would accept having their money restricted so that they cannot use it as they please.

I’d like to see healthcare and EHRs be as secure-yet-open as the banking and financial systems are for consumers today. This can help healthcare organizations leverage new technologies, such as Natural Language Processing, to drive real-time data analytics solutions. As patient data is collected through EHR-based workflows, allowing this data to freely flow to other applications outside the EHR and to HIE-type networks will open up a world of possibilities that can improve patient care. At-risk patients could be identified in real time before complications or exacerbations occur, and hospitals could begin to reduce and avoid readmissions. Outside of the hospital, this can allow broader comparison of treatment effectiveness and deeper quality of care comparisons.

With electronic walls preventing the free flow of healthcare data, progress and improvement is stunted. Openness, interconnectivity, and standardized data in the financial sector spur creativity and innovation that benefit everyone involved, from large banks to smaller start-ups. This same framework should apply to healthcare so that companies serving the healthcare industry that have innovative ideas and solutions have an open market to allow hospitals, healthcare systems, and individual patients to take advantage of the innovative new products and services they provide.

Jeremy Zasowski is the New Solutions Marketing Manager of 3M’s Emerging Business Team for 3M Health Information Systems.