The Obama administration wants to digitize and standardize medical data. You know, have everybody collaborate and agree on a standard, common data format, and be able to exchange records between different providers, securely, in an agreed-upon data format.
To which the entire computer industry should have one loud and universal response: Duh.
In any part of any business, when you have to exchange information from one entity to another, the largest cost is converting/translating/munging from one data format to another. Anybody who has ever worked on a non-trivial integration project can tell you that.
What seems to be missing from this story is the time component. That is, if they don’t do it now, they will have to do it later, and the longer they wait, the more it will cost. Every new record adds costs to the total, and that cost will be paid by the entire health-care-consuming public.
The question should not be whether this should be done, but how quickly the standard data formats can be agreed upon, and who should be on that committee. The trouble with standards is that they take so long to agree on. What the politicians doubtless haven’t thought of yet is the standards process itself. Fortunately, a lot of that work has already been done by other countries. Unfortunately, being American, we’ll try to reimplement from scratch, in a manner that will benefit some particular overpriced vendor that will lock us into their proprietary data format for the next 50 years. What we, the consumers, should be pushing for, is a truly open data format, and truly open API, mandated by law, so that any vendor will have access to this market, and can compete on a level playing field. My fear is that about six months from now we’ll read a story about how MegaMediCo has “won the contract” to do this implementation.