Health system interoperability.
Our industry is the largest, most complex vertical market in the world, currently at $2.5 trillion annually and by most estimates growing to 20% of the US GNP within the next 3 - 5 years. Extraordinary emphasis is being placed on the potential for Electronic Health Records (EHR) to reduce costs and improve quality in our healthcare system. The US Government, through ARRA / HITECH legislation is investing over many billions in incentives to providers to implement EHR. As a result of HITECH, The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that around 90% of doctors (540,000 physicians) and 70% of hospitals (4000 facilities) will be using comprehensive electronic health records within the next decade. This represents an increase in EHR adoption of approximately 400% for physicians, and 800% for hospitals, an astonishing estimate.
The potential of EHR to control costs and improve care depend entirely upon the ability to acquire, index and longitudinally display the clinical and financial data produced by dozens, if not hundreds of disparate sources during episodes of care that may span a few hours, or many decades. The thousands of medical devices, diagnostic instruments, ancillary departmental systems in hospitals (lab, radiology, cardiology, etc), physician practice management systems and now over 300 different EMR vendor systems, produce a cacophony of data that defy efforts at standardization and do not come close to achieving interoperability without significant intervention through "middleware" for data translation, conversion, mapping, etc.