Era of Open Data Means Better Delivery, Faster Innovation Says Aneesh Chopra

“The combination of the opening up of data, connecting apps and the pace of payment reform, in my humble opinion, is why this is the most entrepreneurial period in care delivery,” said Aneesh Chopra, co-founder and executive vice president of Hunch Analytics and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, during his keynote at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Innovation Summit on Monday.

According to Chopra, we have entered an era where data is unprecedentedly open and accessible. “The new default in Washington is that if there is a data set held by an agency that has to do with health, energy or education, the default setting is that it is publicly available in machine readable form” he explained. In terms of healthcare, this data can be “used as fuel for an increasing number of connected health applications.”

One theme of Chopra’s keynote was the move to foster interoperability and communication between IT health systems using application programming interfaces (APIs) which can facilitate the sharing of data across disparate applications. “The ease by which your Fitbit and your MyFitnessPal accounts can talk to each other is now coming to our electronic health records ecosystem using open APIs,” he said.

In the context of precision medicine, the theme of this year’s summit, patients now have the right to connect an app of their choice to their personal healthcare data. “What the president said in January at the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative is that the consumer has the right to that data—and more importantly—to connect it to the applications that help them interpret it.” Although Chopra concedes that patients are reluctant to log into the portals that allow them access to their healthcare data, they are often willing to grant health management apps access to the data.

Chopra was quick to dispel the myth that innovation in healthcare delivery systems will upend systems of record. Too often, “health IT confuses the system of record from the systems of consumption,” he explained. “The system of record is what we intended to be stable, and what API’s allow us to do in IT is essentially decouple the system of record from systems of consumption.” In other words, different apps that engage with data from the electronic health record can be quickly and easily developed, improved upon or discarded without upsetting the larger system of record.

Chopra has high hopes for the future of open data and connected apps. “Where we are headed is the rise of a new class of service, a digital health advisor we trust that will help us make important decisions,” he says. One of the ways that this “advisor” could improve care delivery is by helping patients navigate the complex market of health plans. According to Chopra, “86 percent of people who have health insurance on the exchange can save money if they switch plans.” Imagine if there was an app that could help patients and their families choose the best, most cost-effective plans by analyzing data about the health plans in conjunction with personal health data such as conditions or medications lists?

“This doesn’t require a genomics breakthrough,” quipped Chopra. “This is literally ‘can I grab that data feed and put it into that app’ to make my shopping experience better.”

Abigail Ballou

Abigail Ballou

    Abby Ballou is the managing editor of MedTech Boston. She has a B.A. and M.Phil in English literature from NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, respectively. When she isn't writing and editing for MedTech Boston, Abby enjoys reading, rock climbing, watching classic movies and listening to opera.

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