Last week I had a conversation with a healthcare analyst in Texas who made what seemed to me a bold statement: “Whoever figures out what to do with EMR data will create the next Google.”
Google? Is it possible to match the level of recognition that we give to the search engine that has actually given birth to its own verb? That would take something big, an innovation of grandiose proportions, one that serves to revolutionize our daily lives and become so integrated that future generations will find it impossible to imagine the world without it. In the field of healthcare, that just might be possible.
As a summer intern at a practice management firm during college, I remember the excitement when EMR began to emerge as a realistic, efficient possibility for the general practices scattered throughout NJ. Being the (enterprising) healthcare nerds we were, my fellow interns discussed the challenges of implementing EMR, tossing around the idea of building our own company that would enter the countless pages of patient charts into EMR systems at practices. And while we paused to consider the ways in which EMR would make our own chart-auditing research infinitely easier (no more hours deciphering impossible doctor handwriting!) we clearly weren’t thinking large enough. The big question is how do we centralize all of the data stored on various EMR systems, and then what do we do with it?
Research seems an obvious answer, as does standardization of care and transfer of patient data between practices. There’s also the possibility of changing the doctor-centered system that now exists, as artificial intelligence improves and instant access to patient history takes out some of the guesswork of diagnosis.
The big questions require big thinkers, and the next Page and Brin remain relatively unknown, but there’s no doubt their innovations will be revolutionary.