Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Novel Way to Share Personal Health Information

Patient health data are stored in disparate silos—separate islands of information residing in often incompatible EMR/EHR and PHR databases controlled by different hospitals, clinics and public health agencies, as well different group and solo practices. The question is: What is the best way for this personal health information to be shared securely between the people who need it to provide quality care to individual patients, protect populations, and perform research leading to valid evidence-based guidelines?

There's actually a simple, inexpensive and secure way to exchange data between any PHRs, EHRs, EMRs and public health/research/biosurveillance databases. As I've discussed in previous posts, it requires a paradigm shift from...

  • Monolithic, centralized, pull, synchronous systems—an architecture that's good behind an organization's firewall
  • Distributed federation of asynchronous pub/sub nodes that push data from publishing to subscribing nodes—an architecture that's good for the kind of loosely coupled P2P networks crossing organizational boundaries that comprise the NHIN (National Health Information Network).
The latter architecture uses a node-to-node transport method, which is similar to the way the telephone system works. It enables everyone everywhere to exchange data with little cost and complexity, even when bandwidth is low and Internet access is intermittent. It enables massive interoperability. With it, scalability is a non-issue. It provides composite reports containing information from many disparate sources. And it allows data views to be changed instantaneously (even when offline), which increases understanding by, for example:
  • Data slicing, dicing and drilling down (i.e., breaking a body of information down into smaller parts, examining it from different viewpoints and dividing an information area up into finer and finer layers)
  • Switching from lists and tables to graphs
  • Answering ad hoc "what if" questions
  • etc.
In order to implement the above solution, you would connect pub/sub node software to every application in a mesh node network. And you would enable each node to do whatever data translations and transformations are needed to assure the right data gets to the right place in the right format. Then transmit the data to subscribing nodes in PKI encrypted delimited text files (such as CSV) via FTP, e-mail attachments, MMS, or whatever protocol desired. Upon receipt, the subscribing nodes can import the data into their local databases and/or render the data locally using customized templates that can operate interactively offline.

I discuss this solution in detail at this at my company's LinkedIn group at You're welcomed to join.

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