Viewpoint: Where Big Tech struggles in health care, Delaware thrives – DBT – Delaware Business Times

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By Randy Farmer
Guest Columnist

Randy Farmer

Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have revolutionized the ways in which we work, live and communicate through cutting-edge technology, innovative products and indispensable services. Along the way, each of these Big Four firms has made significant investments to enter and disrupt the health care industry, especially as it relates to health care data.

Google’s recent exit from the health data market, following the collapse of the Amazon/Berkshire/JPMorgan Chase joint venture last year and the sunsetting of Microsoft’s patient portal begs the question: If Big Tech can’t handle health care data services, who can?

Fortunately for Delawareans, the First State has achieved with a nonprofit, public-private partnership a feat that a multibillion-dollar household name couldn’t. Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN), the state’s health information exchange, empowers data-driven decisions through innovative health data services.

So what do we know that Big Tech doesn’t?

The data is messy, complex and siloed

Each year, DHIN delivers more than 14 million clinical results across eight hospital systems, dozens of commercial labs and radiology centers, more than 30 electronic medical record systems and hundreds of practices.

This secure, centralized system makes results delivery more efficient and cost-effective. In FY20, for example, one connection to DHIN for each participating organization equated to 1,152 point-to-point interfaces for hospitals, practices, lab and imaging facilities and the Delaware Division of Public Health.  

Add to that DHIN’s essential role as a data aggregator, applying data normalization and transformation tools to link data and make it useful. This industry expertise, developed and refined over DHIN’s 15-year history, is not easily replicated and could be a missing link in Big Tech’s attempts to enter this market.

The data is incomplete

Frequently missing demographic information makes patient identity verification difficult. Coupled with the lack of a single, unified identification system for patients, and data delivery becomes risky.

DHIN’s sophisticated data service tools match clinical results with the corresponding patient records from the Community Health Record to complete and deliver the result in near real-time. This enhancement service has been especially valuable to Delaware’s Division of Public Health, which relied heavily on this demographic data to support COVID-19 contact tracing efforts and conduct analyses on COVID’s impact on disparate patient populations.

Database is a gamechanger for analytics

DHIN administers the Health Care Claims Database, which enables a broad and holistic view of Delaware’s health care utilization and costs, regardless of payer/hospital/provider/region, as well as comparisons among these audiences and areas.

Because Delaware is a microcosm of the United States – both urban and rural, north and south, racially and politically diverse – leading health organizations, like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have found tremendous value in DHIN’s health care data services.

In short, DHIN knows data. And that knowledge saves Delaware’s hospitals, labs, health insurers and accountable care organizations over $43 million annually.

DHIN provides value

For every dollar that DHIN earns in operating revenue, we deliver four times that value back to our customers.

If a small, self-sustaining nonprofit can generate this return on investment, imagine what DHIN’s data services backed by Big Tech’s resources could do for health care in the First State and beyond?


Randy Farmer is the chief operating officer for the Delaware Health Information Network.