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Imagine you're a skier with a history of injuries. You fall one winter but the only consequence is a sore head and a warning to avoid concussion; the next winter you fall and lose consciousness, and your doctors have no idea about your medical history nor the doctor's report from just a year ago. Plus, the medical equipment they're using isn't connected to any system, so they have to keep entering your information in their computers, increasing the chance of human error. Healthcare professionals being in the dark about your medical history could jeopardize your life.

This is the scenario Ross Mason presents when making the case for digitized, centralized, connected health records. “[Healthcare systems, claimed to be patient-centric, are trapped within the four walls of a hospital, incapable of connecting critical information locally and externally, Ross writes. “This prevents care providers from sharing clinical data, such as patient records, across systems within the hospital and with external healthcare IT systems across the nation and globe. Healthcare IT is failing doctors, medical staff and patients.”

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There are a number of reasons that hospitals haven't made a wholesale move to digitized, connected healthcare records yet. The first one, Ross points out, is cost: “Many hospitals shy away from digital transformation because it's feared to be a massive investment. For instance, a common electronic medical record (EMR) system, EPIC, can have implementation costs upwards of $500 million. However, using incremental approaches and partnering with leading companies that have an expertise where hospitals don't, hospitals can keep digital transformation costs within budget.”

Secondly, Ross acknowledges that information security is a worry, but points out that “The big irony here is by not making data available to other medical providers, it puts a patient in much greater risk of being misdiagnosed or given the wrong medication.”

The starting point to make changes in connected healthcare systems is through APIs. We've seen that APIs are the “invisible warriors of healthcare;” and they can help make the digital transformation of the healthcare system a less onerous task.

“Given medical errors are the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, it's imperative these systems connect and talk,” writes Ross. Take a look at more of his thoughts about why healthcare records need to be connected, and check out more resources about how digital transformation is providing positive patient outcomes.