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AWS healthcare technical lead says interoperability in healthcare at scale a challenge

Interoperability in healthcare isn’t just a buzzword for the healthcare community, it’s also something technology companies are talking about.

Patrick Combes, technology leader for healthcare and life sciences at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said interoperability in healthcare is one of the biggest trends he’s paying attention to this year. While AWS is a major provider of cloud computing services, its healthcare and life sciences track focuses specifically on simplifying technology integration for healthcare organizations, where improving care delivery to patients is part of its underlying mission statement for healthcare providers.

In an interview with Combes at HIMSS 2019, he said he’s seen a push toward greater interoperability both from federal regulators and demand from AWS customers.

“People are beginning to realize the value of bringing this data together,” he said, citing this as the reason for the uptick in interoperability interest.

“We see this not only as a trend, but the only path forward,” he said. “To build a better collective understanding of all the data that’s being pulled in, we have to at least be able to talk about the same things in the same way.”

When it comes to increasing interoperability in healthcare, Combes said AWS is particularly focused on creating the technology backbone necessary for interoperability to take root.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure the machinery for a lot of this works,” he said. “And then surface that machinery so our partners can develop these very specific interoperability solutions.”

One of the biggest interoperability challenges Combes sees for the healthcare community is expanding interoperability standards, such as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standards developed by Health Level Seven, and making them applicable on a larger scale.

“When we work with our partners to scale out these solutions we help build, one of the bigger issues we find is that there’s not a complete understanding of how best to scale,” he said.

Though bringing interoperability to scale can be a challenge, Combes said it’s valuable in the long run because it allows further reach to a greater number of patient records as a result.

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