Navigating the John Candy and Steve Martin of National Health IT Networks

By Buff Colchagoff, CEO, RosettaHealth
LinkedIn: Buff Colchagoff
X: @rosettahealth
X: @BuffColchagoff

Much like the memorable journey of John Candy and Steve Martin in the beloved film “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” the path of Health IT’s national networks has been a tale of unexpected twists, turns, and surprising camaraderie.

As we navigate through the landscape of healthcare data exchange, the evolution of these networks mirrors the chaotic yet ultimately heartwarming trip home undertaken by Candy’s lovable shower curtain ring salesman and Martin’s uptight marketing executive.

Setting Off with High Hopes

In the film, our protagonists set off with a simple goal: to get home for the holidays. Similarly, the goal of national networks like eHealth Exchange, Carequality, and CommonWell was straightforward: to get clinical data to where it needs to be.

Just as Martin’s character anticipated a routine flight, many in health IT a decade ago expected a facile journey toward interoperability. Yet, just as our on-screen duo found their plans thwarted by a series of comedic yet frustrating setbacks, so too have national networks encountered their share of obstacles.

The Mishaps: Snowstorms and Overturned Trunks

Remember the scene where Candy and Martin’s initially peaceful drive turns into a snowy disaster, culminating in a spin-out and a wrong-way drive on the highway?

This can be likened to the ‘spam’ issue on the national networks, where without an effective record locator service, institutions do a broad geographic search through disparate communities, leading to inefficiencies and even server resource failures. And just as our heroes found themselves riding in a dilapidated car with a burned-out trunk, the healthcare sector has often grappled with outdated technology. The IHE profiles, while foundational, can seem as cumbersome as lugging a giant trunk, especially when compared to the sleek, modern FHIR-based protocols.

The Journey: Delays and Detours

Every traveler knows that the journey often matters more than the destination. For Candy and Martin, it was the unexpected detours – such as sleeping on the same hotel bed or selling shower curtain rings as earrings — that defined their trip.

On the nationwide Health IT networks, it’s more than just being able to query and retrieve documents. There are roadblocks and obstacles. Currently, data for the purpose of treatment is available, but other purposes, including even the right of the patient to acquire their own data, can hit bumps on the national networks.

Breakthroughs are possible by enabling unique use cases and the need for simple and cost-effective solution. Just as our film duo discovered new routes and modes of transportation, Health IT professionals are finding innovative ways to improve care through the availability of data on the networks. But we’re not there yet. Certainly, TEFCA will help put more momentum behind progress, but there’s still a way to go.

The Heartfelt Conclusion

Despite the chaos, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” ends on a high note, with the characters sharing a heartfelt Thanksgiving dinner. Similarly, the future of national networks is promising. TEFCA will leverage these networks, and the increasing popularity of and continuing integration into more products points to a future where data exchange is as seamless as John Candy’s laugh is infectious.

The greatest accelerator will be making national network access simple, easy and cost effective. Things are already moving that way with the barriers being reduced continuously. For example, innovations like RosettaHealth’s new self-service national network product that we will be launching in the coming year will greatly reduces costs and the time to integrate and test for smaller organizations wanting to join in. Bringing more sources onto the national networks will make the journey smoother for all involved.

In conclusion, just as John Candy and Steve Martin’s characters found friendship and understanding on their tumultuous journey home, the national Health IT networks are steadily moving towards a future of connectivity and efficiency. The road may be bumpy, and the vehicles may change, but the destination is clear: a health IT ecosystem that is as interconnected and functional as a heartfelt holiday reunion.