Google launches interoperability program in advance of data-sharing deadlines

Dive Brief:

  • Google on Monday launched a program targeting hospitals and other healthcare organizations needing to achieve interoperability in advance of looming deadlines from the Trump administration.
  • The tech giant’s Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program, created with industry partners and consultancies like Bain and Deloitte, is meant to help companies understand the current status of their data, create a path to standardizing and integrating information and work on usability, according to a Monday blog post.
  • It’s also meant to help payers and providers come into compliance with upcoming federal regulations from CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT forbidding healthcare organizations from siloing data, the company said.

Dive Insight:

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more organized and efficient nationwide health IT infrastructure. Despite that urgency, data is often still siloed, in part due to entrenched business interests defending their turf.

The new program from Google links tools from the Mountain View, California-based company with the goal of helping healthcare organizations free up their data between each other and with patients, according to the blog post authored by Aashima Gupta, Google Cloud’s global director of healthcare strategy and solutions, and Amit Zavery, VP of business application platform at Google Cloud.

Early this year, the Trump administration finalized two sweeping rules meant to help patients gain unfettered access to their electronic health data while opening up information exchange across the health ecosystem. Yet rolling deadlines to come into compliance with the two rules, implementing sections of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2016, were pushed back twice this year to free up resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, hospitals have to be able to exchange certain types of medical data with other providers by April 2021, as opposed to Nov. 1 this year. ONC pushed back dates for the Conditions and Maintenance of Certification provisions requiring EHR platforms to be able to integrate with third-party apps and other systems to April as well.

Vendors and other stakeholders need to adopt standardized application programming interfaces, software allowing different computer systems to send and exchange information, by December 2022 and have to be able to export electronic health information by December 2023.

Hospitals thanked the federal government for the delay, although some health IT experts noted smoother data exchange could help the U.S. coordinate its pandemic response. But Google Cloud said a number of its healthcare customers reported they weren’t prepared to meet the new requirements, even though compliance dates have been pushed back.

In 2018, Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce signed a pledge to support healthcare interoperability and data-sharing standards, renewed in 2019. In April, Google made its Cloud Healthcare API available to the industry at large in a bid to make it easier for health systems and other providers to securely share data and coordinate their coronavirus response efforts.

That API is available to healthcare organizations through the company’s new interoperability program, along with other tools including the HealthAPIx Accelerator, a blueprint for interoperability implementation efforts, and Apigee API Management, a tool to help build and scale standardized APIs and roll out other digital products.

Tech companies see significant growth potential in healthcare, an industry that still relies on paper faxes for communicating sensitive information. However, many have faced significant controversies in how they obtain and manage patient’s health data. Google, for its part, is currently facing an HHS Office of Civil Rights probe launched late last year, after using the personal health information of millions of Americans provided by health giant Ascension to develop new healthcare product lines without patient consent.

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