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While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will not be remembered as a particularly enjoyable period of time, it has contributed to significant developments and realizations within and beyond the healthcare industry. One of the most prominent revelations has been the increasing need for data sharing across institutions, organizations, and companies in order to promote more accurate, efficient, and effective healthcare solutions for providers and patients alike.

In the wake of an unprecedented public health emergency, the role of data sharing has become more salient than ever before.

 

Common Ground

One of the key roles of widespread data sharing in healthcare relates to ensuring all relevant parties have access to the same information; in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this means that healthcare facilities, researchers, and other essential players should be able to access collected data in order to better prevent and treat patients; this equal ground also enables a larger pool of professionals to study the virus and work to develop a vaccine.

There has also been a push for health data to be made accessible to other organizations to aid in the protection of public health; information about common allergies, viral infections, and other local health data could prove beneficial to institutions that regularly serve the public, especially when it comes to vulnerable populations. Regardless of the application, data sharing can stand to improve general knowledge as well as healthcare capabilities in keeping the public safe and healthy.

 

Searching for Solutions

In pursuit of prevention, care, and treatment solutions, it is imperative that key parties have access to all relevant data in order to increase the likelihood of finding effective tactics and methodologies. Additionally, data sharing allows smaller practices to access essential information pertaining to symptoms and treatment that they might otherwise lack; during the pandemic, for example, small practices with access to hospital data have had a better chance of accurately diagnosing patients and providing better treatment to them than they would have prescribed without this information. This phenomenon was observed in California where company Manifest MedEx facilitated the connection of 103 hospitals for the purpose of sharing health data; the tool allowed healthcare professionals to assess claims and clinical data from wider regions than their own to improve accuracy and efficiency of care.

 

Interoperability

With the growing prominence of data sharing within the healthcare industry comes the need for interoperability; if data is to be shared with numerous parties and across various systems, it needs to be standardized, organized, and consistent. The larger a health information exchange (HIE), the more complex it becomes, requiring more sophisticated software to manage, analyze, and translate data to a network of facilities and professionals. This is one of the most prominent obstacles for data sharing initiatives; until developers can implement more advanced software, a widespread data sharing network is not feasible, but the initiative can still be conducted over areas divided by county or state boundaries or even larger regions such as the Pacific NorthWest.

In the United Kingdom, efforts to integrate more effective software and data sharing initiatives are underway; most notably, this comes in the form of adopting Ontoserver to securely and meaningfully share information with care providers, researchers, and service planners. One of the primary reasons for this practice includes instituting a common language (namely in regards to terminology and notations) to ensure all participants in the information exchange can equally access, process, and analyze the data available. 

 

The idea of sharing data across healthcare institutions is not a new one, but the ongoing pandemic has demonstrated just how beneficial widespread health information exchanges can be. By standardizing data, implementing effective software to manage it, and making health data accessible to relevant parties, the industry can collectively benefit in promoting better healthcare solutions for all.