Google Cloud teams up with Deloitte, KPMG to launch healthcare interoperability program for providers and payers

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Google Cloud's interoperability program will help healthcare organizations understand the current status of their data and where it resides, map out a path to standardization and integration, and make use of data in a secure, reliable, compliant manner. (achinthamb/Shutterstock)

Google Cloud rolled out new tools and services to help providers and payers advance data interoperability in advance of upcoming federal deadlines.

On Monday, the tech giant's cloud division announced a Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program designed to help healthcare organizations understand the current status of their data and where it resides, map out a path to standardization and integration and make use of data in a secure, reliable, compliant manner.

Google Cloud worked with industry consultants and partners like Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, HCL Technologies, KPMG, MavenWave, Pluto7, SADA and 8K Miles to develop the program with tailored services, technologies and strategies, according to Aashima Gupta, global director, healthcare strategy and solutions at Google Cloud and Amit Zavery, vice president, business application platform at Google Cloud, in a blog post published Monday.

The interoperability program also will help healthcare organizations navigate changes and increase their readiness for the new Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data-sharing rules.

On March 9, the HHS issued two widely anticipated rules, one each by ONC and CMS, that promote patient access to data and improved information sharing. The rules implement interoperability provisions of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. HHS has twice pushed back the compliance timelines for the healthcare information blocking and interoperability regulations due to the pandemic.

RELATED: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM renew pledge to support health data interoperability

Providers are now required to come into compliance by April 5, 2021, the same deadline for compliance for conditions and maintenance of certification requirements related to application programming interfaces (APIs). New standardized API functionality won't be required until December 2022.

"As we approach rolling implementation deadlines, healthcare organizations are wrestling with how to liberate data from siloed systems—not only to give patients more granular control of their data, but also to improve outcomes by giving doctors a more complete view into their patients’ conditions," Gupta and Zavery wrote.

"The stakes are significant. Yet, in speaking with our customers, the number of healthcare organizations that feel prepared to meet these new requirements is small. Why is this the case? In short, providers and payers aren’t sure where to start. And with many critical applications running on legacy IT systems that aren’t built on modern web standards, the goal can seem daunting," the executives wrote.

With COVID-19 underscoring the importance of even more data sharing and flexibility, the next few years promise to accelerate data interoperability and the adoption of open standards even further.

Data-sharing is foundational to advancing digital technology in healthcare from telemedicine to app-based healthcare ecosystems, and application programming interfaces, or APIs, are the foundation for interoperability, Gupta and Zavery said.

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

Whereas older APIs were designed for bespoke integration projects, modern APIs are designed to be easy for developers and have become the standard for building mobile applications. In addition to APIs, implementation of open data standards—such as FHIR—is another critical step toward interoperability. 

Last year, Google joined Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce with a renewed commitment to support interoperability in healthcare and to take steps to advance data-sharing standards. In April, Google Cloud rolled out the general availability of a technology tool, its Cloud Healthcare API, to make it easier for health systems and providers to connect data across different sources and share those data with patients. 

Through Google Cloud's interoperability program, healthcare organizations will have access to tools such as a HealthAPIx Accelerator, the Apigee API Management and Google Cloud Healthcare API. 

RELATED: Americans will have 'access to their health information on their smartphones': Trump admin on HHS rules

The HealthAPIx Accelerator provides the jumpstart for interoperability implementation efforts by providing best practices, pre-built templates and lessons learned from Google Cloud's customer and partner implementations, according to the company. It offers a blueprint for healthcare stakeholders and app developers to build FHIR API-based digital experiences.

Apigee API Management provides the underpinning and enables a security and governance layer to deliver, manage, secure and scale APIs; consume and publish FHIR-ready APIs for partners and developers; build robust API analytics; and accelerate the roll out of digital solutions.

The program also includes an interoperability toolkit that includes solution architectures, implementation guides, sandboxes and other resources to help accelerate interoperability adoption and streamline compliance with standards such as FHIR R4. 

"As we reflect on the lessons of COVID-19, building resilient interoperable health infrastructure will not only be a catalyst but table stakes for delivering better care. The Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program aims to help free up patient data and make it more accessible across the continuum of care, as well as set up organizations for long-term success with more modern, API-first architectures," Gupta and Zavery wrote.