Decades after their first introduction, electronic health records are still very difficult for different healthcare providers to exchange. It’s tempting—but, warns a veteran industry executive, probably wrong—to believe a technological shortcut will solve the problem.
(Glendale, CA) November 26, 2018—According to a recent study by the National Academy of Medicine, 96% of U.S. hospitals and 78% of physicians’ offices use some form of electronic health records (EHR), theoretically enabling multiple providers to share vital data on patients and treatment. Due to a general lack of system interoperability, however, says the study, information from across the care continuum is unable to flow at the right time, or even to the right person.1 “As much as anything else,” says James D’Arezzo, CEO, Condusiv Technologies, “this is a turf issue. Hospitals and other providers purchase systems and equipment from a variety of manufacturers, each of which has its own proprietary interface technology.” D’Arezzo, whose company is a world leader in I/O reduction and SQL database performance, adds, “As a result, most providers spend time and money setting each technology up in a different way, rather than being able to rely on a consistent standard of connectivity.”
Pressure to solve the EHR problem, notes D’Arezzo, is coming not only from healthcare institutions but from a variety of other sources, including the federal government. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie recently issued a joint statement confirming their commitment to enabling EHR interoperability and aligning plans, strategies, and structures as their respective EHR implementations progress. The VA’s EHR implementation is scheduled to go live at a minimal level at care sites in the Pacific Northwest by March 2020.2
Meanwhile, blockchain has been suggested as a cure for EHR interoperability challenges. According to a recent report by Deloitte, blockchain has progressed from capturing cryptocurrency transactions to become a medium that can enable decentralized information sharing and application operations. Blockchain, says the report, may offer a solution to more easily aggregate health data in a secure, automatic, and error-free way.3 Apparently the industry is taking heed. In a recent study of major healthcare IT trends, 55% of surveyed hospitals indicated a desire to initiate some sort of blockchain program in the next 24 months.4
There are, comments D’Arezzo, two basic problems with this idea. One, blockchain is a database. It requires a good deal of input/output activity—interchanges between the computer’s CPU and storage, whether real or virtual. Two, blockchain is slow. In the most recent available study, the Bitcoin network—the largest and most widely tested application of blockchain technology—achieved maximum throughput nearly 50 times slower than PayPal, and 14,000 times slower than VisaNet.5
“If blockchain-based applications come in on top of the already staggering load of data handling required of IT in the healthcare sector today, the danger of major system slowdowns, and quite possibly system crashes, will increase dramatically,” says D’Arezzo. “This is not what healthcare providers need or want—and could be fatal.”
Instead of hoping for a pre-emptive technological solution, D’Arezzo suggests that healthcare providers continue their progress, halting though it may be, toward widespread agreement on mutually usable EHR file structure and content. In the meantime, he adds, the performance of EHR systems can be dramatically improved by streamlining the I/O capability of existing implementations, as demonstrated by Condusiv’s recently announced work with a major EHR technology supplier.
About Condusiv® Technologies
Condusiv Technologies is the world leader in software-only storage performance solutions for virtual and physical server environments, enabling systems to process more data in less time for faster application performance. Condusiv guarantees to solve the toughest application performance challenges with faster-than-new performance via V-locity® for virtual servers and Diskeeper® or SSDkeeper® for physical servers and PCs. With over 100 million licenses sold, Condusiv solutions are used by 90% of Fortune 1000 companies and almost three-quarters of Forbes Global 100 companies to increase business productivity and reduce data center costs while extending the life of existing hardware. Condusiv CEO Jim D’Arezzo has had a long and distinguished career in the high-tech arena.
Condusiv was founded in 1981 by Craig Jensen as Executive Software. Over 37 years, he has taken the thought leadership in file system management and caching and transformed it into enterprise software. For more information, visit http://www.condusiv.com
- Lagasse, Jeff, “Interoperability remains limited, according to the National Academy of Medicine,” Healthcare Finance News, October 15, 2018.
- Monica, Kate, “VA, DoD Commit to Enabling EHR Interoperability Between Agencies,” EHR Intelligence, October 11, 2018.
- O’Dowd, Elizabeth, “Blockchain in Healthcare Could Be ‘Game Changer’ for EHR Interoperability,” HIT Infrastructure, October 23, 2018.
- Cohen, Jessica Kim, “HIMSS Analytics: The state of blockchain, cloud, EHR adoption & more,” Becker’s Hospital Review, October 11, 2018.
- “Bitcoin and Etherium vs Visa and PayPal—Transactions per second,” altcointoday.com, April 22, 2017.
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Karla Jo Helms