Google Cloud rolls out technology to map medical records data to FHIR standard

Large tech giants are jumping into a growing interoperability solutions market as new federal regulations spur the healthcare industry to open up and share medical records data.

Google Cloud rolled out a new tool called the healthcare data engine, currently in private preview, that helps healthcare and life sciences organizations harmonize data from multiple sources, including medical records, claims, clinical trials and research data.

It gives organizations a holistic view of patient longitudinal records, and enables advanced analytics and AI in a secure and compliant cloud environment, according to Google Cloud executives.

Data was a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic," Joe Corkery, M.D., director of product management at Google Cloud, said during a recent call with reporters. "We can now see the full potential and vision of data interoperability."

Google Cloud developed the healthcare data engine to make it easier for healthcare and life sciences organizations to bring together their data silos to innovate and improve health outcomes, Corkery said.

RELATED: HIMSS19: ONC, CMS officials outline the framework for interoperability, the use of APIs, FHIR

The technology builds on the core capabilities Google started offering last year with its Cloud Healthcare API, a technology tool that will make it easier for health systems and providers to connect data across different sources and share those data with patients. 

The healthcare data engine can map more than 90% of Health Level 7 (HL7) v.2  messages to Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standards—such as medication orders or patient updates—across leading electronic health records (EHRs) out of the box.  FHIR is the data standard specified in federal interoperability regulations.

This enables healthcare organizations to get up and running quickly and avoids the need to create custom tooling or services, according to executives. And bringing together siloed data enables innovation and interoperability, helping healthcare and life sciences organizations make better real-time decisions—whether it is around resource utilization, optimizing clinical trials, accelerating research, identifying high-risk patients and reducing physician burnout.

The technology also leverages Google BigQuery’s analytics and artificial intelligence to help organizations process and visualize petabytes of their own patient data, enabling a more holistic view of patients in surrounding communities and the potential to improve overall population health.

According to recent Google Cloud-commissioned research conducted by The Harris Poll, nearly 9 in 10 physicians (87%) say data interoperability should be a priority at their healthcare organizations right now, and 95% of physicians agree that access to more complete patient records helps them make diagnoses more quickly and accurately. Most physicians (90%) say they would be able to provide more personalized care for their patients if they could reduce time reviewing or updating patient records by just 5%.

"What we see out in the market, historically organizations have relied on enterprise data warehouses to do this kind of retrospective analytics, but today's use cases need less data latency, they need to make faster sense of this proliferating data," Marianne Slight, product manager for Google Cloud Healthcare Analytics, said to reporters. 

Mayo Clinic has been working with Google Cloud to bring data in from disparate sources, harmonize it to FHIR format, and analyze it in BigQuery. By automating this process, what used to take weeks can be done in an hour, enabling Mayo Clinic’s experts to now focus on solving critical problems in health rather than managing IT resources, health system executives said.

RELATED: Google opens Cloud Healthcare API to health systems to support data exchange

“We were hitting a wall with our ability to innovate on-prem. By moving to the cloud we’re able to build tools more easily, at scale, in a way that takes advantage of technological advancements in security and privacy to remain at the forefront in data protection,” said Jim Buntrock, vice chair of information technology at Mayo Clinic in a statement. 

“There are so many applications of this. For example, building a ‘heads up display’ for the ICU—where moments matter—to help care teams direct their attention when and where it’s needed most. From creating better ways to care for patients remotely even after they leave the hospital to making it easier for patients to interact with us via mobile app, we’re working alongside Google Cloud to build a platform for healthcare transformation.” 

Healthcare Data Engine is being used today by healthcare organizations such as Indiana University Health. 

Google Cloud's release of the API and the healthcare data engine comes as federal policymakers are pushing the industry to open up healthcare data and share them with patients or the health apps patients choose.

Microsoft also launched a cloud service designed specifically for healthcare that helps organizations scale up digital health technologies while also providing tools to improve data interoperability, workflow efficiency, and streamline interactions, the company said. 

Amazon also recently announced the general availability of Amazon HealthLake, a tool to make it easier for healthcare organizations to search and analyze data.

And Apple rolled out a new iPhone feature that enables consumers to share health data directly to their provider’s EHR system through the Apple Health app. The key to Apple's integration with medical records software companies is the use of standard application programming interfaces (APIs)—namely, SMART on FHIR.