New approaches to healthcare technology – from interoperability and electronic health records to blockchain – signal the industry is catching on to the philosophy that some of the best ideas come from outside your network.
“The world of crowdsourcing understands that no matter how innovative your company is, the collective talent of the crowd always exceeds the talent purely internal to the company,” Culbertson said.
As the HIMSS innovator in residence, part of Culbertson’s focus is to bring partners across industry together so they can take different ideas and fuse them together into a new idea.
“By leveraging some of the great work that’s being done in healthcare and sharing that with other industries, innovators outside the field can understand what’s happening in the world of healthcare and then build on it, becoming part of the changing healthcare ecosystem,” shared Culbertson.
Crowdsourcing for Health Innovation
One area where crowdsourcing is having an impact on healthcare is in open application programming interfaces.
An application programming interface, or API, is, in essence, a menu for data. “An API is a set of instructions regarding a proprietary system. These instructions tell a developer – even a developer outside the company – what data can be served from within the system and how,” Culbertson explained.
An API tells a developer what data about the proprietary tool is available, how to access the data, etc. The third-party developer then uses this information to build a new tool on top of the existing tool.
Not only does the industry benefit from collaboration with experts outside the field, patients benefit too.
Say you have an X-ray at the hospital over the weekend and you see your doctor, who is outside the hospital network, during the week for a follow-up appointment. You expect your doctor will have access to the X-ray and for it to be in a format your doctor can use so you don’t have to have another X-ray done. But because of the varied approaches to data sharing currently used in healthcare, this fluidity of information does not always happen.
“How do we leverage the community to build the system of the future? A lot of this is around open APIs,” noted Culbertson.
And open APIs can apply to just about anything – from electronic health records to patient registration systems and scheduling systems.
Bringing the Crowd Together
The best way to accelerate collaboration? Bring people together.
Connecting developers with the healthcare industry, Dev4Health – hosted by HIMSS and Health 2.0 – brought developers, product managers, innovation leaders and tech enthusiasts together to generate new ideas and build on emerging technologies and trends, particularly around the open API ecosystem.
“It’s a way of innovating in healthcare that couldn’t be done before,” Culbertson added.
Watch leaders in healthcare technology and development talk to HIMSS TV on everything from using APIs to solve global healthcare challenges to how healthcare is being transformed through artificial intelligence.
Originally published April 18, 2018, updated May 21, 2018