Electronic health record systems are becoming more and more ubiquitous each year, with the global EHR industry on track to be worth $29.81 billion by 2022, according to the latest projections. Electronic records improve overall efficiency (to the tune of 6% annually), and — theoretically — allow both clinicians and patients better access to data from multiple practitioners.
Now, Harvard researchers have released a commentary suggesting how these systems might be improved to deliver data more effectively and cut down on overall medical costs: by embracing apps programmed according to a standardized set of protocols.
“If challenges related to efficacy, accuracy, utility, safety, privacy and security can be met, this emerging apps model for health information technology will open up the point of care for innovation and connect patients at home to their healthcare data,” the authors write.
Projecting based on the health apps that are already on the scene, which can track cardiac activity, exercise, calorie intake, sleep habits and more, the authors point to a future where apps containing even genetic information could be tied into a comprehensive system.
What would need to happen to make this possible? The researchers point to the current state of EHRs as an example of what happens with a lack of advanced planning. EHR software isn’t standardized, meaning it’s both costly to develop tools to actually use the data gleaned from them, and difficult to transfer those tools among numerous practitioners on various systems.
To keep that trend from repeating itself with apps — and to reform EHRs in the process — it’s necessary to create standards for app development now, before the industry takes off even more than it already has, they recommend. The best route would be to make sure all health apps are supported by a uniform public application programming interface (API) to ensure apps work interchangeably with all EHR systems. That would ultimately benefit providers, patients and programmers alike.
The full paper has been published in the journal Cell Systems under the title “Driving Innovation in Health Systems through an Apps-Based Information Economy.”