Data tools

MEDITECH will integrate Google’s health data tools into its EHR

Recently we shared information about the growing set of features being developed as part of Google Health’s Care Studio, most recently its “Conditions” feature which summarizes patients’ conditions and uses NLP to link related information such as laboratories or drugs to these lists of conditions.

This week, we learned that MEDITECH is planning to adopt Care Studio, particularly in integrating its data harmonization, search and synthesis capabilities in its web-based MEDITECH Expanse EHR. The summary tool will highlight critical information directly in the Expanse workflow, including data from different sources in the MEDITECH EHR.

Google uses HL7 FHIR to support the data harmonization process, but in a blog entry on the subject, Paul Muret, vice president of Google Health and general manager of Care Studio, states that it is only a first approach. “Much remains to be done before FHIR is widely adopted and systems can effectively exchange information,” Muret wrote.

MEDITECH plans to use Google Health tools to form a longitudinal health data layer that brings together data from different sources in a single standard format. This integration will include integrating Google Health’s search functionality into Expanse. The upgraded EHR will use the infrastructure of Google Cloud, which was an important partnership between Google Cloud and MEDITECH for years.

This strikes me as the kind of deal we should have seen years ago. With first-generation EHRs built around billing issues, they were always a step or two behind what clinicians needed. This is especially true when it comes to extracting data from multiple sources. Most to date are far from intuitive and tend to be difficult to “train” to fit the care pathways that suit the people using them.

Of course, over the years, EHR developers have worked to address this issue in their products. It’s fair to say that they are much more aware and concerned about workflow and usability than they were when they were first rolled out and adopted by hospitals primarily focused on HITECH dollars.

Over time, many vendors attempted to fix some of the usability issues that their systems still had. They largely did this by working with customers to see what should be changed, then upgrading and rewriting their code.

More recently, it has become more common for EHR vendors to add functionality from external partners who specialize in key functions such as patient engagement or billing. But we haven’t yet seen many situations where major EHR vendors have integrated new software that addresses key clinical workflow issues that continue to create problems for EHR users.

I may be overly impressed with this deal, but I think the partnership between Google Health and MEDITECH could be an important step in the evolution of EHR usability.

We’re not talking about a situation where MEDITECH just adds a little extra feature to Expanse, we’re looking at a deal that could significantly improve the product. When the Care Studio integration rolls out, Expanse users will have a significantly different experience of how they access data and how they use it to make decisions about patient care.

I will be monitoring this partnership carefully to see if the integration is happening and working as promised. I’m very interested to know if the two parties successfully marry their respective technologies and if this marriage delivers the promised benefits.