I recently had a chance to catch-up with Bill Fox, MarkLogic’s new Vice President of Health Care and Life Sciences, to ask for his thoughts on a special Healthcare IT briefing he recently attended at the White House. According to Bill, the Administration is calling on technology companies to get involved in the development of fast, nimble apps that can be deployed quickly across underserved health populations …

National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved

Bill Fox received an exclusive invitation to attend the briefing on Advancing Health Equity With Technology and Innovation at the White House. This briefing was a part of the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT) Summit held in Washington D.C. in April 2015. The discussion at the briefing addressed the concern that many health apps coming out of Silicon Valley, in particular consumer engagement health apps, fail to take into account the very people who need them most – those from traditionally underserved communities. Further, techy people (e.g., readers of TechCrunch) that create and evaluate these health apps are likely to have good jobs with health insurance. They aren’t the target audience for these applications. So even though there has been a tremendous activity in the development of payment and population health apps, if the apps leave out those that need it most, the solution isn’t built on a sustainable healthcare model.

The idea raised by the CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Bryan Sivak, and DJ Patel, Chief Data Scientist for the Obama Administration, was to create technology solutions that could reach these underserved populations and then refer those individuals to providers who can leverage new billing codes aimed at wellness and chronic disease management. The gist here is that tech and population health companies should develop healthcare apps that improve the quality, consistency and access to care for underserved populations and by doing so would also create a financial boon for their own businesses. The White House recognizes the creative energy and vision coming out of the technology industry and is trying to promote and encourage business innovation through serving the populations most in need.

Healthcare: Change Is in the Air on Cultural, Technology Fronts

iStock_000060390742_MediumThe call for healthcare technology applications to be developed in this more inclusive model is indicative of the recent cultural and legislative shift in the healthcare industry. Under the still dominant strict fee for service world, there is no financial incentive for the provider to discourage a patient with diabetes from coming into the office, or ER, again and again. Because, in the past, if this person visited the ER ten times a year, it wasn’t a problem, and in fact was highly profitable. Now, however, there are readmission rules stating that if a patient gets readmitted for the same condition within a certain amount of time – providers/hospitals won’t get paid for that patient’s care. This is the transformation that the federal government is looking to drive and, for technology companies, it will necessitate a basic shift in thinking about application design principles. The questions tech companies need to ask is Who really needs this app? And who is going to get the most use out of it?

NoSQL’s Agile, Enabling Technology to Play Key Role

MarkLogic provides a database environment that enables value to be extracted from data quickly and less expensively, whether that data sources are simple or heterogeneous and complex. It is very difficult for healthcare organizations to integrate all of the information about a patient into a useable form. MarkLogic can help by equipping healthcare organizations to consolidate and query data, even if it’s stored in twenty different legacy systems using twenty different schemas. And by enabling this, MarkLogic solves more than just the technology challenges of a healthcare organization, it also helps overcome the entrenched thinking of those working with legacy systems and the culture of inertia that often goes right along with it.

In the briefing, the government communicated a genuine willingness and desire for both large and small businesses to get involved in the development of fast, nimble apps that can be deployed quickly across underserved health populations. MarkLogic is poised and ready to provide the flexible database technology that will play a key role in making this endeavor a success.

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