DENVER, Colo. – When it comes to digital health, the software development firm Commerce Kitchen has a foot in both worlds, collaborating with everyone from early-stage startups to major healthcare organizations like Davita, Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, and US Oncology.
“We’re helping them spin up ideas within their larger enterprise ecosystems,” said Tynan Szvetecz, CEO and founder of Commerce Kitchen, while describing how his firm helps its corporate clients.
According to Szvetecz, Commerce Kitchen’s experience with major healthcare providers allows it to better advise its smaller clients on issues like entering the healthcare system and scalability.
“There are a million different directions for a startup to go in, which makes it hard to choose a good path,” Szvetecz said. “We help startups find a good path, and then work with them every step of the way.”
This unique position has permitted Commerce Kitchen to develop a bold vision for the future of US healthcare that has everything to do with interoperability.
An Early Adventure in Interoperability
Commerce Kitchen first encountered the challenge of healthcare interoperability while working with the emergency physicians at Porter Adventist Hospital. Led by Dr. Mark Prather, the CEO of Dispatch Health, these physicians had banded together to develop a software platform that could accurately assess their performance.
“If you tell a doctor that you want them to shorten the time it takes them to get a sick or injured patient to a bed from the ER,” Szvetecz said, “even though they’ll probably agree with you, they may not have the time or energy to focus on changing that metric.”
“However, if you give them real-time data on how they’re performing against their peers, that tends to motivate them. Doctors are naturally competitive.”
According to Szvetecz, Dr. Prather and his team spent two months modeling the platform in Excel spreadsheets before they developed it, an approach that helped them identify the data they would need to effectively represent physician performance.
Upon realizing they would have to collect data from their electronic health record, their shift scheduling program, and their billing software – none of which normally shared information with one another – Dr. Prather’s team contacted Commerce Kitchen.
“This was an early adventure in the interoperability game for us,” Szvetecz said. “We ended up fusing data from all of these platforms into a secure, web-enabled app.”
Having successfully tested the platform with a group of 120 physicians inside the Porter Adventist Hospital system, Dr. Prather and his team are currently exploring ways to deploy it nationally.
The First Steps Towards a New System
When asked about the future of digital health, Szvetecz foresees healthcare providers leaving behind the monolithic EHR systems they interface with today and embracing a variety of different apps.
“What we envision is a structure that is not constrained by the internal IT systems that these big hospitals currently have,” he said. “The new systems will be much more cloud-based, modular, and interdependent, which will allow for more flexibility and adaptability.”
At the heart of this new system are APIs that will allow physicians to more easily access critical information, while enabling different programs to communicate with one another and share data.
But Szvetecz doesn’t believe the EHRs of today will disappear entirely.
“It’s difficult to see a future where Epic or Cerner is going to go away,” Szvetecz said. “To their credit, they’re beginning to realize that they need to adapt and integrate with a lot of these new digital health apps.”
In an effort to stay ahead of the trend, Commerce Kitchen is taking part in the Argonaut Project, which has brought together EHR vendors and healthcare providers alike to enable healthcare data to be sent and received by software programs of all kinds.
“Thanks to the Argonaut Project, we’re going to have a lot of eyes on the problem of how to get different apps to work together so that they can interface with not only the healthcare system but patients too,” Szvetecz said.
The Promise of Interoperability
While Szvetecz admits that his vision of healthcare interoperability is still five to 10 years out, he sees several immediate benefits coming from the current push.
“Instead of having one big monolithic solution to everyone’s problems, we’re beginning to have many different companies that can solve one problem really well,” he said. “If you can build bridges between them, then you can do something truly exceptional and truly change the system. That’s the promise.”