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IBM and Merge: Here We Go Again!

IBM and Merge: Here We Go Again! | Healthcare and Technology news |

Today’s announcement of IBM’s acquisition of Merge Healthcare might be called a deal changer.  In today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment, it would seem that merging IBM’s deep pockets and technological talent with Merge’s clinical technology and applications capabilities would be a good thing.  And, it may prove to be given the current environment. 

On the other hand, this is déjà vu, as I have personally seen IBM try to play in the healthcare space several times before.  Years ago, IBM developed a product and attempted to be a player in the Radiology Information System (RIS) business.  Eventually it was sold off.  IBM teamed with GE in the early 80’s to integrate RIS and PACS (Picture Archive and Communication System), only to exit amidst the company’s financial woes in the early days of Lou Gerstner’s chairmanship. 

There were also several failed attempts in the dictation/transcription business.  There was the IBM Executary line.  Then came the IBM VoiceType system.  And finally, there was IBM MedSpeak/Radiology, the first product to exploit IBM’s speech recognition technology.  Each time, IBM realized that the total medical market for such products could be measured in the thousands, not the hundreds of thousands of potential users.  In the end, IBM sold off these products on the basis of market dynamics versus disproportionate development and support costs.  It was unfortunate, as IBM had some of the best technology in the business!  Another part of the argument always was that IBM sold product to other healthcare vendors, and competing with them would jeopardize that business.

So, will the past repeat itself?  Or, have IBM and the market changed enough to make this a winning proposition for IBM?  I would have to say, only time will tell.  But, today, IBM is a different company than it was thirty years ago, as is the healthcare industry.  Much of the “big iron” emphasis is gone, and the company has much more of a services focus these days.  Cloud computing was never a factor in the past, and today, coupled with Watson, it offers much more potential for delivery of storage and analytics solutions.

In the age of past efforts, there were much larger barriers between Information Technology (IT) and clinical departments.  That is why IBM chose to partner with GE to address RIS-PACS previously, as the two complemented one another in terms of hospital administration emphasis.  Today, there is much more IT emphasis on clinical systems and their integration across the enterprise.  And, the healthcare environment today is radically different than in the age of past efforts, given increased regulation and greater provider consolidation.  An IBM-Merge combination should have much broader appeal to integrated delivery networks (IDN’s) who might benefit from greater interoperability and better business analytics.

Both IBM and Merge have sufficient technical expertise to make it work.  But, the glass is only half full.  Imaging informatics is a growing market, but it pales in comparison to the general healthcare IT market such as for EMR’s (Electronic Medical Record).  How well the market is willing to play with an IBM-Merge entity will be interesting to see.  Or, does IBM have more companies in its sights?  It’s ironic that an IBM spinoff (Lexmark) has positioned itself to be a formidable competitor in this space as well.  What will be the reaction of others such as HP and Dell that have had evolving healthcare strategies over the years?  IBM’s forays into the consumer market (remember the PC Junior or OS/2?) have not proven all that successful either. 

Here’s hoping that IBM has evolved and learned from its past, and will find ways to make this one work!  As always your comments and perspective are welcome.

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IBM Watson antes up $1B to buy Merge

IBM Watson antes up $1B to buy Merge | Healthcare and Technology news |

Continuing its shopping spree, IBM on Thursday announced that it will spend a cool $1 billion to acquire Merge Healthcare in a deal that will combine Merge's medical imaging technologies with IBM's Watson. 

Watson will gain the ability to "see" by bringing together Watson's advanced image analytics and cognitive capabilities with data and images obtained from Merge Healthcare's medical imaging management platform, IBM executives said in announcing the deal.

The intent, say IBM executives is to to unlock the value of medical images to help physicians make better patient care decisions.

Merge is a public company, traded on NASDAQ as MRGE.

Its technology platforms are used at more than 7,500 U.S. healthcare sites, as well as most of the world's leading clinicalresearch institutes and pharmaceutical firms to manage a growing body of medical images.

As IBM execs see it, these organizations could use the Watson Health Cloud to surface new insights from a consolidated, patient-centric view of current and historical images, electronic health records, data from wearable devices and other related medical data, in a HIPAA-enabled environment.

Under terms of the transaction, Merge shareholders would receive $7.13 per share in cash, for a total transaction value of $1 billion. The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory review, Merge shareholder approval, and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to occur later this year.

It is IBM's third major health-related acquisition – and the largest – since launching its Watson Health unit in April, following Phytel, a population health company and Explorys, a cloud-based intelligence firm.

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Can Apple And IBM Change Health Care? Five Big Questions

Can Apple And IBM Change Health Care? Five Big Questions | Healthcare and Technology news |

Today, at a glitzy press conference at IBM’s new Watson headquarters in Manhattan’s swank Silicon Alley, IBM IBM -1.82% and Apple AAPL -2.53% announced that they are partnering with Japan Post, which is among other things the largest health- and life-insurance company in Japan, to start a project that will provide iPads to millions of senior citizens with the aim of improving their health and their lives.

The project will help Japan Post, which already has a massive Big Data-style collection of health care information, to both know more about its customers and to improve the health and wellness of its seniors, which could, it stands to reason, also improve the financial health of its insurance businesses by allowing customers to live longer, healthier and more independent lives.

Japan Post Chief Executive Taizo Nishimuro said the effort has “the potential to affect an entire generation of people and bring our elderly citizens into the world of connection and convenience that come with iPhone and iPad. It’s my vision to enrich their lives.”

Apple and IBM chief executives Tim Cook and Ginni Rometty were both present at the press conference, emphasizing its importance to both firms. “Combined with Japan post we are going to build a service that not only can all be proud of but that will put a ding in the universe,” said Cook, looking down occasionally at an iPad on his lap. Added Rometty: “Today is about re-imagining life for what is the largest generation that has been in human history.”

Big words. But what exactly is this first step into a new way of trying to keep people healthy? Here’s my take.

How, exactly, will this work?

For this, there’s a clear answer. Japan Post already has a service through which it sends employees directly to the homes of its elderly customers to check up on them and to help them with arranging the minutiae of life, including medical appointments. These workers will bring the senior citizen an iPad, and sit with them and teach them how to use a suite of IBM-designed applications focused around the areas of health, family, and community.

The app will remind patients to take their medicines (the fictional anecdote used by IBM executives to explain that used a woman who kept forgetting her blood pressure medicine, which would put her at risk for a stroke), but also allow them to FaceTime with family and to book a plumber. The idea, the executives said, is to make it easier for seniors who may be getting more forgetful or having trouble with balance to continue to live independently.

There are lots of pilot programs to do this sort of thing, but the Japan Post effort differs in its scale – Nishimuro said that the plan was to roll this out to millions – and in its reliance on Apple and IBM technology. The executives didn’t mention any telemedicine component, where patients could directly connect with doctors or nurses, but it’s easy to imagine one. The customers won’t pay for the iPad, although there may be a nominal fee for the service, an IBM spokesman said. There will be a limited roll-out, and testing for functionality, before the project can move full tilt.

Can you protect people’s privacy?

Japan Post is one of the most trusted companies in the world, working in a culture that has dramatically different attitudes about both privacy and caring for seniors than the U.S. does.

But can you imagine letting a U.S. health insurance company know every piece of information being collected here? Could Aetna AET -0.87% or Cigna CI -1.28% roll out a similar program? That depends on whether patients can really be sure that a company they trust (like Apple) can protect their data from one they probably don’t (any company in U.S. health care).

The data will be in a secure cloud. Rometty said that customers will opt in or out of having their personal details known, or providing data in an anonymized fashion. “I believe that discussion of privacy and convenience is a tradeoff individuals make all the time,” she said.

Can you prove that iPads actually help people stay healthy?

The idea behind this project is that it will help senior citizens remain independent and healthy for longer, while giving peace of mind to relatives who will be able to stay in touch with them more closely. In the fictional case study IBM used to explain this effort to the press, the patient’s high blood pressure would mean that getting her to take her medicine more often would improve her life.

Obviously, Japan Post will be collecting huge amounts of data that, with IBM analytics, it will use to try to learn about how to keep people healthy. But will these companies be able to prove that giving a grandmother an iPad can save her life?

It wasn’t clear what kind of data collection IBM, Apple, and Japan Post will be doing to prove that this works. Studies taken from insurance databases are generally considered less reliable than experiments where people are randomly getting an invention, or not getting it. Hopefully, Japan Post will be able to compare people who got iPads at different times to see if these apps actually help people be healthier, instead of just making them happy that they got a new toy. 

Could this be rolled out in America?

Obviously, trust issues about giving information to insurers are a bigger hurdle in the U.S. than in many other countries. But there are other issues, too.

As Cook noted, the U.S. health care market is fragmented. No insurance company here has the reach that Japan Post does. Apple and IBM say they are trying out a huge number of pilot studies, including one related to home health care that is being done by Express Scripts ESRX +1.76%.

Will this work?

IBM and Apple deserve huge congratulations for the way they are taking on the problem of improving health care for seniors – especially since it is a problem health care companies are failing to solve. This is a big deal.

But I also saw something I didn’t like at the press conference: a tendency to talk a lot about how great the gadgets and apps they were developing are without much data about whether or not they actually improve health. It’s very possible, maybe even likely, that an iPad giveaway program, paired with the right apps, could make senior citizens with chronic health problems healthier and more independent. But it’s not a foregone conclusion, and it deserves a more reasoned approach. Apple and IBM are moving into new territory here, and they’re going to have to do something that is always hard for anyone, but that both companies have excelled at over the years.

They’re going to have to think different.

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IBM wins 'foundation' role for NZ health IT cloud

IBM wins 'foundation' role for NZ health IT cloud | Healthcare and Technology news |

New Zealand's National Infrastructure Platform (NIP) for health is moving to an IBM-managed cloud, enabling a massive consolidation of datacentre facilities in the sector.

Announced on Tuesday by government-owned Health Benefits Ltd (HBL) and IBM, the National Infrastructure Platform will host applications and systems that New Zealand's 20 district health boards (DHBs) use to deliver healthcare.

DHBs will migrate from 40 datacentres to just two IBM-managed facilities -- one in Auckland and the other in Christchurch.

The current datacentres vary in size, age, quality, and adherence to standards, IBM and HBL said in a statement. The two IBM-managed facilities will offer higher security classifications, better reliability, and higher service levels.

Fifteen DHBs have given conditional approval, with four (Northland, Auckland, and counties Manukau and Waitemata) agreeing to use the NIP already.

Director of the National Health IT Board Graeme Osborne said a number of IT outages at DHBs in the last two years had an impact on the smooth delivery of health services.

"The improved resilience and strengthened disaster recovery capabilities of NIP will reduce the risk of IT outages affecting the efficient operation of health services," he said.

Southern DHB chief executive Carole Heatly said patient care is paramount, and the clinical benefits of a more stable and secure IT platform could not be understated.

Last February, Southern DHB's systems were out of action for 36 hours due to human error and a lack of maintenance. An audit report found that the systems were exposed to significant risk.

The IBM solution will aggregate each DHB onto infrastructure as a service (IaaS) aligned to the Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017. That will allow DHBs to purchase their IT infrastructure on demand without maintaining and owning their own.

IBM was named the preferred supplier last May.

Rob Lee, IBM New Zealand's managing director, said a "best-of-breed team" of global and local partners had been assembled to deliver the project, including Computer Concepts Ltd, Racemi, and Vocus-owned FX Networks.

NIP is forecast to provide financial benefits of NZ$23.9 million total cost of ownership over 10 years across all DHBs.

The transition to NIP will start from mid-2015, and is expected to take three years.

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Epic-IBM DoD EHR Modernization Award Bid Making Progress |

Epic-IBM DoD EHR Modernization Award Bid Making Progress | | Healthcare and Technology news |

Epic Systems and IBM continue to strengthen their pitch to land the $11-billion Department of Defense (DoD) EHR modernization award  with the formation of an advisory group and continued testing of its proposed EHR technology at a pilot site in West Virginia, according to multiple reports.

During a press event in Washington, DC, representatives from both companies revealed the progress of the Epic-IBM proposal for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) contract.

Adam Mazmanian of FCW reports that the Epic-IBM partnership has already expended significant resources into testing the Epic EHR technology at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in West Virginia in order to meet the demands of the DHMSM program to have initial capability beginning in 2016.

“What we wanted to do was have Epic running and have the opportunity to integrate and test, add new functionality, integrate other pieces of the big package so that there were no surprises,” IBM’s Managing Partner of Federal Services Andy Maner told reporters. “We just wanted to make sure we were getting ahead. Obviously Epic is live all over the country, but we wanted to be a step ahead in a DOD-hardened environment.”

Testing at laboratory began in November 2014, which allows both IBM and Epic to assess the performance of the latter’s EHR technology within technological environment on par with the DoD’s guidelines for security.

“For IBM this is a grand challenge that comes once in a decade, or once in a century,” Maner maintained. “One of the things that we wanted to do was to establish a path of work, really over the last year, so that if and when … we are awarded it, we are ready to go on day one.”

Accompanying these revelations about EHR testing activities was news that IBM and Epic had named 17 healthcare executives to an advisory group in their pursuit of the DHMSM contract. As Darius Tahir of Modern Healthcare reports, group members represent several nationally-recognized health systems as well as one industry group and a retired member of the Armed Forces:

  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Geisinger Health System
  • Mercy Health
  • Partners HealthCare
  • Sentara Health
  • American Medical Informatics Association
  • Maj. Will Lyles, Retired

Earlier this year, IBM and Epic revealed their intentions to compete for the DHMSM contract. The awardees of the contract will be responsible for replacing and modernizing aspects of the DoD’s current Military Health System (MHS) clinical systems.

“We would be honored to be part of the solution to modernize the MHS,” Epic Systems President Carl Dvorak said in June. “In collaboration with IBM, we can provide a successful implementation that will support innovation and interoperability within military healthcare.”

IBM and Epic will have to contend with pitches from other groups including Allscripts, PricewaterhouseCooper, and others.

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What Does IBM’s Acquisition of Merge Healthcare Say About the Healthcare IT Market?

What Does IBM’s Acquisition of Merge Healthcare Say About the Healthcare IT Market? | Healthcare and Technology news |

As if everyone’s heads in healthcare IT weren’t already spinning like that of Linda Blair in 1973’s “The Exorcist,” here comes yet another acquisition in healthcare IT, this time the Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM announcing on Thursday its acquisition of the Chicago-based Merge Healthcare.

All mergers and acquisitions are interesting, but this one offers particular facets worth pondering. First of all, of course, its timing, less than four months after that giant company had just swallowed up the Dallas-based Phytel and the Cleveland-based Explorys back in April, a move announced during the HIMSS Conference.

That double acquisition is one of the reasons that we editors at Healthcare Informatics made IBM one of our “Most Interesting Vendors” this year, as its trajectory has encapsulated some of the mergers and acquisitions that have taken place in order to give some vendors a particular edge as competition intensifies in the healthcare IT world. As Senior Editor Rajiv Leventhal wrote regarding IBM’s analytics push, “Enter the Watson Health Cloud, which IBM will sell to doctors, hospitals, insurers and patients. That offering will be the centerpiece of a new dedicated, Boston-area business unit, IBM Watson Health, which now includes both Explorys and Phytel.” Leventhal quoted Anil Jain, M.D., chief medical officer (CMO) for Explorys, as saying that “[IBM] is complimenting much of what we do around traditional analytics using machine learning algorithms with some of the cognitive computing and the Watson analytics that Watson Health group will be leveraging. We became the content that will fuel some of the next generation analytics that Watson has become famous for.”

In a blog published today on, staff writer Erik Ridley wrote this: “For IBM's new Watson Health unit, the deal gives the company access to Merge's image management and analysis software and its installed base of more than 7,500 U.S. institutions, clinical research institutes, and pharmaceutical companies. IBM is adding Merge to other recent acquisitions, such as population health firm Phytel and cloud-based healthcare intelligence company Explorys.”

Ridley went on to note that “IBM plans to offer Watson Health Cloud to analyze and cross-reference images against lab results, electronic health records (EHRs), genomic tests, clinical studies, and other health-related sources. In aggregate, these represent 315 billion data points and 90 million unique records, according to the company. This could provide Merge's installed base with a useful consolidated, patient-centric view of current and historical images, EHRs, data from wearable devices, and other related medical data.”

So far, so good. I think that IBM is gaining clear advantage in acquiring Merge Healthcare at this time., as it brings imaging informatics into the fold and potentially will integrate elements of imaging informatics with its already-advancing work in analytics. Indeed, Joe Marion, a Wisconsin-based consultant who blogs regularly for Healthcare Informatics and who is one of the most knowledgeable observers of the imaging informatics sector around, sees clearly the advantages to this pairing. As Joe wrote Thursday in a blog on this site, “Today, IBM is a different company than it was thirty years ago, as is the healthcare industry.  Much of the “big iron” emphasis is gone, and the company has much more of a services focus these days.  Cloud computing was never a factor in the past, and today, coupled with Watson, it offers much more potential for delivery of storage and analytics solutions.”

Joe further noted that, “In the age of past efforts, there were much larger barriers between Information Technology (IT) and clinical departments.  That is why IBM chose to partner with GE to address RIS-PACS [radiology information system/picture archiving and communications system (issues)] previously, as the two complemented one another in terms of hospital administration emphasis.  Today, there is much more IT emphasis on clinical systems and their integration across the enterprise.  And,” he added, “the healthcare environment today is radically different than in the age of past efforts, given increased regulation and greater provider consolidation.  An IBM-Merge combination should have much broader appeal to integrated delivery networks (IDN’s) who might benefit from greater interoperability and better business analytics.”

I agree completely with Joe’s perspective on this. Now, what about Merge Healthcare itself? I’ve been following Merge very closely as a company for several years now. Merge has some very talented senior executives, and solutions that are respected and appreciated by providers. The challenge for the company’s senior management has been facing is the shifting landscape of the imaging informatics market right now. PACS solutions have become almost totally commoditized; I’m sure there are PACS systems that are at last marginally better than others, but, given the accelerating demands facing patient care organizations, the need to move quickly into accountable care- and population health-based arrangements, and clinicians’ demands for always-available computing, even significant solution quality differentiation is simply no longer enough (and let’s not even talk about how commoditized RIS solutions have become).

So, clearly, for senior executives at Merge, a respected company that has been going through some major management changes and has been treading water in a rapidly shifting imaging informatics vendor landscape, this deal makes a lot of sense, too.

The challenge now will be to make this pairing work for current Merge Healthcare customers and for IBM customers—and customers of the former Phytel and Explorys, too. We all know about the trajectories of healthcare IT vendors that have grown too rapidly through acquisition and that have ended up becoming a jumble of unintegrated parts.

IBM’s moves so far seem thoughtful and precisely judged. Only time will tell how everything turns out ultimately—and clearly, that will depend on execution. Skillful execution is to healthcare IT what location is to real estate—a fundamental element of success. And this trajectory for IBM is a fascinating one. So stay tuned—because this is going to be an interesting path ahead.

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Apple, IBM announce partnership with Japan Post to improve elderly care

Apple, IBM announce partnership with Japan Post to improve elderly care | Healthcare and Technology news |

Apple Inc and International Business Machine Corp have teamed up with Japan Post Holdings Co to improve caregiver and monitoring services for the elderly in Japan, the companies announced on Thursday.

IBM will work with Japan Post to develop iPad software that will enable Japan's national Post Office Watch service to better monitor elderly clients. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Japan Post Holdings President Taizo Nishimuro announced the initiative at a joint news conference at IBM's Watson New York City headquarters.

Cook touted iPhone and iPad sales in Japan but notably made little mention of the Apple Watch, his first new product since taking over the company after Steve Jobs' death in 2011. He touted the iPad as an integral tool for improving care of elderly family members and patients, and said Apple has seen a "significant uptake" of the iPhone and iPad in Japan.

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IBM Announces Deal to Acquire Both Phytel and Explorys; Goal Is Data Transformation

IBM Announces Deal to Acquire Both Phytel and Explorys; Goal Is Data Transformation | Healthcare and Technology news |

Senior executives at the Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM announced in a press conference held on Monday afternoon, April 13, at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, during the course of the HIMSS Conference, that it was acquiring both the Dallas-based Phytel and the Cleveland-based Explorys, in a combination that senior IBM executives said held great potential for the leveraging of data capabilities to transform healthcare.

Both Phytel, a leading population health management vendor, and Explorys, a healthcare intelligence cloud firm, will become part of the new Watson Health unit, about which IBM said, “IBM Watson Health is creating a more complete and personalized picture of health, powered by cognitive computing. Now individuals are empowered to understand more about their health, while doctors, researchers, and insurers can make better, faster, and more cost-effective decisions.

In its announcement of the Phytel acquisition, the company noted that, “The acquisition once completed will bolster the company’s efforts to apply advanced analytics and cognitive computing to help primary care providers, large hospital systems and physician networks improve healthcare quality and effect healthier patient outcomes.”

And in its announcement of the Explorys acquisition, IBM noted that, “Since its spin-off from the Cleveland Clinic in 2009, Explorys has secured a robust healthcare database derived from numerous and diverse financial, operational and medical record systems comprising 315 billion longitudinal data points across the continuum of care. This powerful body of insight will help fuel IBM Watson Health Cloud, a new open platform that allows information to be securely de-identified, shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, health and social research data.”

Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson, said at Monday’s press conference, “Connecting the data and information is why we need to pull the information together into this [Watson Health]. So we’re extending what we’ve been doing with Watson into this. We’re bringing in great partners to help us fulfill the promise of an open platform to build solutions to leverage data in new ways. We actually believe that in the data are the answers to many of the diseases we struggle with today, the answers to the costs in healthcare,” he added. “It’s all in there, it’s all in silos. All this data needs to be able to be brought into a HIPAA-secured, cloud-enabled framework, for providers, payers, everyone. To get the answers, we look to the market, we look to world-class companies, the entrepreneurs who had the vision to begin to build this transformation.”

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Innovation Pulse: Can platforms foster an ecosystem of IT advancement?

Innovation Pulse: Can platforms foster an ecosystem of IT advancement? | Healthcare and Technology news |

Meet the new linguistic mashup: "plecosystem," meaning a technological ecosystem comprising different platforms.

I first heard the phrase spoken by John Mattison, MD, Kaiser Permanente's chief medical information officer. Platforms are coming from technology leaders such as Apple, IBM, Google and Microsoft.

"The best prospect from one of these players is that it's a platform," said Steve Savas, managing director of clinical services at Accenture. Rather than trying to create apps that target specific conditions or diseases, the tech stalwarts are building platforms on top of which independent developers can build those very targeted apps. "And that's the place they could have the biggest impact."

IBM and Apple, for instance, have been forthright in saying that "the art of the possible" figures prominently into their plans to foster an ecosystem of applications on top of HealthKit, the iOS and Apple hardware platform. And they do stand to profit handsomely if independent software developers give hospital chief information officers reason to buy armadas of iPads.

"I think the innovators would welcome it from Apple, Microsoft or others because then there are standards and the uptake costs for adopting new innovative technology drops precipitously and it can create an ecosystem around it, much like the app ecosystem around the iPhone," Savas said.

Such a plecosystem, of course, presumes that these new platforms go the way of the iPhone and iPad – stimulating waves of original applications – and don't follow the iPod, which devoured the MP3 market and effectively squashed innovation in that realm.

We're already seeing evidence of the potential for this new plecosystem in mobile health. Provider-centric apps geared for Apple's HealthKit have emerged, ranging from American Well's AmWell, which enables live video visits with doctors, to Patient IO, an app with which physicians can send specific treatment reminders directly to patients.

While the Mayo Clinic has aligned with Apple and Epic in a high-profile triptych, other leading providers are also innovating on Apple's platform. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, has a quiver of apps that run on top of both iOS and Android to target specific conditions including cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, sleeping problems and general wellness.

Electronic health record makers are hopping on board, too. In addition to Epic, athenahealth and Cerner revealed plans to integrate with Apple's platform almost immediately after HealthKit launched; over the summer Apple was also rumored to be in talks with Allscripts.

What's more, with industry analyst firms such as Black Book projecting that the provider landscape will see widespread switching to new EHR vendors, more and more EHR makers are going to tune their software for tablets, phablets and smartphones.

Let's just speculate, for instance, that Apple manages to arrange things such that iPads and iPhones, pre-loaded with mobile-optimized software from Allscripts, Epic or a small and controlled choice of EHRs, are sold and supported by IBM. Well, that's a pretty compelling product.

Likewise, Microsoft and Dell could roll together something similar on the Windows platform. Same goes for Google's Android. Apple products, despite their cool factor, are not for everyone, after all.

Regardless of platform – Android, iOS or Windows – as those configurations become available are you really going to buy your next EHR any other way? And what are your patients going to demand, moving forward, when it comes to consumer-facing products?

We're about to find out. For instance, enough people asked for new means of connectivity and more touch points with doctors that Ochsner Health System integrated its Epic EHR within weeks of HealthKit's release, according to Richard Milani, MD, Ochsner's chief clinical transformation officer.

Much like Ochsner, Duke Medicine integrated Epic with HealthKit right away because it has been trying to better understand how patients are doing on a day-to-day basis at home rather than just during the rare office visits when doctors see them.

"Technologies like HealthKit open the door to patients choosing to share data," said Ricky Bloomfield, MD, director of Duke's mobile technology strategy. "That will let doctors make more informed treatment decisions in cooperation with them."

That last point is where the platform surpasses any single digital nanny or wellness app feeding a wearer's health data into the black hole so many proprietary vendor databases truly are.

Indeed, the overarching plecosystem theme here is the integration of those apps and devices within EHRs and clinical decision support tools, as Mattison told me when I met him at the Healthcare IT News Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum in Boston this past November.

That will enable "doctors to lead more with empathy, and to understand values and outcomes to deliver what patients want, not what we think is best for them," he said.

Right now, the plecosystem momentum is powerful – even though Apple, IBM, Google and Microsoft are just getting started – and there's every reason to believe it will get stronger in the months ahead.

"The platform approach," said Accenture's Savas, "will proliferate the innovators."

Jeri Garner's curator insight, March 22, 2015 7:55 AM

EHR are getting smarter and consumers need them to be, but it needs to be easy and available at the touch of a button. Clinicians and CXO's don't have time to sit around analyzing data. The technology needs to make it easy for those caring for the patients to make the right decision at the right time, and drive improved patient outcomes and financial gains. .

Cameron's curator insight, March 25, 2015 8:34 PM

This is a great step for technology, this will indefinitely impact the health industry as well as change the way we live our lives. The author goes in-depth with the possibilities of the platform, letting the readers know that this technology is achievable. It is innovating ideas like these which make millions/billions in the long run.