'Silo' one of healthcare's biggest flaws

'Healthcare falling behind other industries because it isn't using the technology properly'
By Eric Wicklund
10:06 AM
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Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, in an interview with Healthcare IT News.
To healthcare mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, the dirtiest four-letter word in the realm of digital health is "silo." 
 
Unfortunately, it's everywhere. Hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices all keep close tabs on their information -- as do departments within the hospital or health network. Digital health devices and services silo their data, and let's not even talk about EHR vendors. In short, everyone in healthcare these days has control over a certain subset of data, and they're not into sharing.
 
 
And that, says Soon-Shiong, is what's keeping healthcare -- and mHealth in particular -- from evolving.
 
"We need to create an integrated system that follows a human being through the continuum of life," he said during a recent interview with mHealth News, Healthcare IT News' sister publication. 
 
Soon-Shiong knows of what he speaks. A South African-born surgeon, medical researcher, businessman, philanthropist and UCLA professor who holds some 50 patents, he's executive director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute, board member of the California Telehealth Network, chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and chairman and CEO of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Advanced Health, the Healthcare Transformation Institute, National LambdaRail and NantWorks. NantWorks, in turn, is the parent company of NantHealth, which is pushing Soon-Shiong's vision of integrated healthcare through a network of digital, genomic and clinical solutions.
 
Soon-Shiong envisions a future healthcare system that connects all the dots, serving a patient throughout his or her life, not just in sickness. He sees that health journey much like a long plane trip, with the consumer and caretaker pulling in data from all sources to plot a course, and adjusting that course as things happen.
 
"What we are trying to create is a true operating system," he said. Such a system would encompass clinical decision support, machine learning and "adaptive amplified intelligence" that "integrates pieces of the puzzle" and "gives you inputs … so that you can manage outputs."
 
 
The EMR, he added, might be a part of that solution, but not the whole solution. He sees it as "basically a flight log" that needs to be tapped for information at times.
 
Soon-Shiong, long considered one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the healthcare field these days, said he saw some evidence of progress at this year's HIMSS14 conference and exhibition -- though he also pointed out that he saw a lot of the same things he's seen in the past six or seven conferences. Namely, he sees vendors showing off systems that work great, but don't get along with each other.
 
He also saw a trend that isn't a favorite of his: mHealth devices that over-emphasize the collection of vital signs and real-time transmission to healthcare providers. Healthcare, he said, "has to break the rule of capturing vital signs at all times" and focus more on gathering data and identifying trends.
 
Likewise, Soon-Shiong said healthcare isn't being held back by technology. "The barriers technologically don't exist any longer," he said. Instead, healthcare is falling behind other industries like banking and entertainment because it isn't using the technology properly -- and that's a workflow management problem.
 
"It's a difficult concept to envision," he said, "because nobody's taken the trouble of taking each of these siloed pieces and integrating them into a single healthcare system."
 
Soon-Shiong concluded that much of healthcare is resistant to wholesale change, and that fear should be used to our advantage.
 
"Change management is the next challenge," he said.
 
This story first appeared in mHealth News here