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Healthy collaboration: Why partnerships are the heart of healthcare innovation

November 14, 2022
Aashima Gupta

Global Director of Healthcare Strategy & Solutions, Google Cloud

The moment for healthcare's transformation has arrived. To succeed, it can no longer be a siloed or solo endeavor.

Healthcare has always been a team sport—you’d never have a single surgeon operate on you without help from a multidisciplinary group of nurses, clinicians, specialists, and therapists—and the same goes for healthcare technology. 

Patients, providers, payers, and public health officials are all looking for collaboration to drive our industry’s reinvention. As we’ve seen in particular the past three years, such partnership is both essential and now eagerly embraced. Look no further than the stage of this year's HLTH event, where it’s clear the time for healthcare’s digital transformation has arrived.

Here in Las Vegas, we’ve joined a number of our customers and ecosystem partners to demonstrate many of the exciting ways we’re building a culture of collaboration; putting data and AI to work; and improving patient experiences. It’s all with the aim of driving better health outcomes and creating a more efficient and effective healthcare system.

Customers are regularly telling us they need choice, they need options, and they need innovations that can be interoperable. Transformation can no longer be a siloed effort. 

That’s why healthcare and tech leaders have begun a movement of innovation that puts people—instead of bureaucracy—at the center. New business models are about to emerge at an unprecedented rate, and the systems within healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and research will fundamentally change. The core of this change will be technology that makes data available, useful, and predictive. 

Together we can achieve this vision — and we can only reall achieve it together.

A movement means many partners working in harmony

The transformation of healthcare is really an ecosystem movement. Already there is too much lock-in and silos within healthcare information, and an open and collaborative approach will be paramount to improving healthcare systems. 

Breaking down silos is also a regulatory requirement. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Cures Act Final Rule requires that patients have secure access to their electronic health information to use and share as they please, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Interoperability and Patient Access Rule requires that health plans participating in federal exchanges share claims data with patients electronically. What’s more, three in four healthcare executives now rank data interoperability as the highest or one of the highest priorities for their organization, according to a group recently surveyed by Google Cloud and Fierce Healthcare.

Healthcare organizations already work with a wide variety of technology partners to do things like manage and analyze data, run their core systems like IT, payroll, and HR, and utilize software specialized for healthcare use cases. It’s part of why Google Cloud has put an emphasis on supporting an ecosystem of partners, which now totals in the hundreds. 

This way, healthcare organizations have the tools and options they need to execute on the real work of healthcare, without the burden of assembly and connecting all these different technologies a la cart. A thoughtful, shared approach like this can also help cut down on the interoperability issues that have hamstrung the industry in the past, when systems did not easily or natively talk to one another. 

When healthcare teams have more connected data, the more connected they are to patients, which can lead to better health outcomes.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) are a critical part of this ecosystem, and we see many ways to work with EHR companies for our mutual customers. Today marks a critical development in this journey, as we’re sharing that Epic and Google Cloud have signed an agreement that will enable healthcare organizations to run their Epic workloads on Google Cloud. New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health shared that it plans to run Epic on Google Cloud, which it expects will boost innovation, increase efficiencies, and strengthen security.

“We expect running Epic on Google Cloud will be simpler for our IT and developers  and will allow them to focus more on uncovering creative ways to improve patient care,” said Kash Patel, EVP and chief digital information officer for Hackensack Meridian Health. “Having everything with Google Cloud will provide a huge opportunity for discoveries. 

For example, data from Hackensack’s AI Avatar for natural language processing would already be in Google Cloud, ready to analyze information available there, without having to port over from other sources. This speeds up its work and makes information more accessible. 

At the same time, access to such valuable information can only go so far, and can even present its own challenges. Without the right capabilities and connections, this new wave of data can’t be effectively understood, processed, and analyzed. 

These are exactly the kinds of interconnections organizations like Meditech are working to create. 

Extra time sifting through EHR takes practitioners away from the work of actually practicing medicine.

Two years ago, Google Cloud cloud entered into a partnership with Meditech to bring their EHR solutions to the cloud. Then in March of this year, Google Health expanded this partnership with Meditech, to bring Google-caliber search and summarization capabilities into Expanse, Meditech’s web-based EHR platform. 

To further this work, Google Health and Meditech announced today that DCH Health System and Mile Bluff Medical Center will be the first to pilot the integrated solution. Too many clinicians are spending too much of their days sifting through electronic health records. This partnership should help clinicians more easily surface the data they need, so they can focus on the important work they set out to do: care for patients, not paperwork. 

Building a culture of speed and collaboration powered by data

Wrangling data is just the start of an organization’s digital transformation, and far from the only part that can feel daunting or overwhelming. While it can be involved, digital transformation does not have to take years for developers, clinicians, and patients to see results. In fact, the sooner the work starts, the sooner organizations can begin to enjoy real impact.

Google Cloud recently came together with several of our customers and partners, including Hackensack Meridian Health, Lifepoint Health, and Mayo Clinic, to find ways to help address notable pain points in the industry. As a result, we developed a number of what we’re calling “accelerators” for Google Cloud’s Healthcare Data Engine, each of which will be tailored to address specific healthcare needs.

The first three accelerators for the Healthcare Data Engine (HDE) address common use cases around health equity, patient flow, and value-based care: 

  • Strengthening health equity: Organizations are looking to overcome economic, social, and other obstacles to healthcare, and eliminate preventable health disparities. One of the new HDE accelerators will support health equity by providing tools that leverage datasets tied to social determinants of health, something currently lacking in traditional forecasting tools. This data can then enable healthcare organizations to connect patients to community resources, support work with analytics, and power comprehensive, easy-to-use dashboards.
  • Reinventing operations and experiences: Patients are increasingly frustrated with navigating appointments and wait times — inefficiencies that can cost organizations time and money to manage — while employee burnout remains a major challenge in healthcare. The HDE accelerator focused on patient flow provides aggregate data and visualizations to help health systems understand a broad range of patient flow metrics, helping to surface trends and identify bottlenecks. These insights can help inform clinical operations performance initiatives, as well as providing data on ongoing performance, and thus smoothing the way for both patients and workers.
  • Improving quality of care: Value-based care is an emerging alternative to fee-for-service reimbursements, one that ties payments to the quality of care provided. In order to deliver value-based care, organizations need to have access to the right data to assess quality and outcomes. The HDE accelerator targeting value-based care can help organizations analyze trends and identify key population health metrics from combining claims and clinical data.

Available in early 2023, the HDE accelerators will offer customers a set of tools that can potentially get them between 50% and 70% of the way to data analysis, instead of starting from scratch. These tools include tailored infrastructure deployment configurations, BigQuery data models, and Looker dashboard templates to support adoption and time-to-value of HDE for these common industry challenges. HDE leverages Google Cloud’s reliable infrastructure and secure data storage that support HIPAA compliance, and when implemented, each customer’s layers of security, privacy controls, and processes help protect the access and use of patient data.

Patients are increasingly expecting healthcare providers to offer experiences on par to other consumer-first industries.

We believe these HDE accelerators are among the important building blocks helping our ecosystem of partners, customers, and developers unlock the transformative power of longitudinal patient records. It’s through long-term thinking and analysis that we can together help healthcare become more preventative, predictive, and equitable.

Patient-centered care should rival the best brand experiences

Consumers want their healthcare experiences to match what they’re used to in other areas of their lives, like the ease of retail shopping, banking, and rideshare services. 

Today, we joined Highmark Health and League, a leader in digital platform development, to announce Highmark’s new interoperable digital health platform. Called myHighmark, the platform makes it simple for people to navigate their care and connect to the right tools and resources when and where they need them. The myHighmark member portal integrates care navigation, virtual health, bill payment, and cost transparency in a single sign-on experience.

Highmark is calling the navigation technology a “digital front door” to a holistic customer experience, one that offers seamless care navigation, shared care plans, virtual and digital health, simplified bill payment, and cost transparency all available to Highmark’s 6.8 million members. This makes healthcare less fragmented and frustrating to navigate, and simpler for their members to proactively engage in their health. 

This focus on patient experiences is happening around the world and across the industry, too. Last week, India’s Manipal Hospitals unveiled virtual care services across its chain of hospitals in India, creating a new e-pharmacy platform that allows patients to order medicines directly from the hospital, and building remote patient monitoring to improve overall care.

Why now?

In an industry that is incredibly complex and slower to take up the digital transformation mantle, how do we know now is the time for meaningful change? There are three major societal shifts that make this a pivotal time in healthcare.

First, the pandemic was a wake-up call, and forever changed consumer expectations. Second, the staffing shortages we continue to experience in healthcare aren’t going away anytime soon, and organizations need to find a way to keep up with patient needs. And third, people’s comfort with technology, from wearables to apps to telehealth, has grown.

From our early days as a company, Google sought to improve the lives of as many people as possible through making information as accessible and useful as possible. Those possibilities are now making their way into healthcare information, too. 

For Google Cloud, this means helping healthcare and life sciences organizations accelerate the digital transformations that are already putting people at the center. We believe our infrastructure, security practices, and intelligent data platforms can be tools that become just as important and reliable to the industry as a stethoscope or X-rays.

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