Moving Towards an eHealth Ecosystem

Earlier this year, major EMR vendor EPIC opened its first App Orchard, where third-party developers can build healthcare apps that can connect directly with the enterprise system using HL7 FHIR. A year before that, Cerner launched code, allowing developers to build on top of their open platform.

These events may seem insignificant to the less technical among us, but they represent a growing appreciation for greater connections across healthcare systems. Discussion about data exchange and interoperability have exploded across the industry this year, which a whole section dedicated to it at HIMSS17.

The potential here is incredible. With major vendors adopting an open attitude towards third-party developers, and modern data standards like FHIR rising in popularity, we are witnessing the growth of a healthcare ecosystem that can connect to tools designed to solve specific healthcare problems. Rather than rely on one vendor to be the jack of all trades, we can leverage the utility and expertise of third-party apps to address all aspects of patient care.

To get ready for eHealth Conference, I would like to share a couple key concepts and terms to keep in mind.


Modern interoperability is moving away from simply reading and storing data between two systems, and evolving into an environment where healthcare data is exchanged, stored, and used across multiple systems. According to HIMSS, interoperability is “the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.”

HL7 FHIR (a.k.a FHIR)

Developed by HL7, FHIR is their newest data standard that leverages web standards, with a focus on implementation. The standard framework is designed with modern technologies in mind. In a nutshell, FHIR is the language that the data must conform to. EPIC and Cerner have opened their platform for apps built on FHIR. The standard is currently in trial for use in Ontario.


What are your thoughts on interoperability? What kinds of apps do you want to see in your healthcare ecosystem? Share your comments with us on Twitter (@eHealthConf) with the hashtag #eHealth2017.

To learn more about interoperability at eHealth Conference, check out session EP02 – From mHealth to Interoperability and Beyond! on Monday.

For more reading on the topic, visit these articles:

App store for EHRs may be reality in not so distant future

Will the Epic Systems “App Orchard” Grow EHR Interoperability?

Ontario EHR Interoperability Standards

Crystal Chin works with MedStack, a health tech startup in Toronto. MedStack is a cloud-based hosting platform that simplifies building privacy compliance and interoperability in healthcare apps. Connect with her on Twitter (@_CrystalChin).

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e-Health Annual Conference & Tradeshow 2017 | e-Health 2017 Toronto, ON

What If? Moving Our Health System from Today to Tomorrow

Shiran Isaacksz is Senior Director – Regional/Provincial Portfolio, Shared Information Management Services with the University Health Network and a Director with the COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association Board.

By asking yourself, “What if?” how can we move from the health system we have today to the one we want tomorrow?

“Every system is perfectly designed to obtain the results it gets – many intended, and some unintended” – Dr. Paul Batalden

Dr.  Batalden’s quote has been used in a number of presentations I have heard this year; for me it serves as a great reminder that we have created the present situation in our health system and have the chance to design the health system we want for the future. While today’s “situation” is often described as “broken, slow and too clinician-focused,” I believe that we are about to undergo an evolution that will change healthcare as we know it. Rather than paying lip-service to patient or person-centred care, industry leaders are taking this focus to heart and finding ways to apply this lens to everything we do. 

Over the past 15 years, we have focused on establishing a strong foundation for information sharing that has been largely reliant on delivering robust and scalable technology. Across the country, we made significant investments and have seen real progress in improving care and the care experience.  These were the intended results of investing in infrastructure. Now, with more information and a strong focus on consumer and digital health, we are more informed and empowered than ever before. It is this shift that that will allow us to transform the future, today. We need to better engage the patient/person as our most important stakeholder. It is through these eyes that we can reimagine our health system to identify and prioritize innovation opportunities.

It is time to rethink our relationships and welcome those we have traditionally seen as “outsiders”. It is time to ponder what else is out there.

Canada is going through a phase of economic, social and political resurgence. Now, more than ever, the public wants accountability, value for money and, most importantly, to be involved in the decisions that affect their health and well-being. There is no time like the present to have discussions on how we can work together differently. It has become evident that models that worked in the past will not hold in the future – this is our new reality and our biggest opportunity. 

To me, reimagining healthcare is about driving innovation by changing our mindset. This will require each of us to reflect on the roles we have played and the ones we would like to play. It is time to disrupt the system by asking, “What if …?”

  • What if patients were engaged in all aspects of designing our health system?
  • What if the end-to-end patient experience was what guided our digital health efforts?
  • What if patient, public and private partnerships were expanded?

I encourage each and of you to reflect on what Dr. Batalden’s quote means to you and the role you can play in sharing our health system and ask yourself, “What if …?” It is time to rethink our relationships and welcome those we have traditionally seen as “outsiders.” It is time to ponder what else is out there. What is your “What if…?” Join me at #eHealth2016 to share your reflections.

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e-Health Annual Conference & Tradeshow 2016 | e-Health 2016 Vancouver, B.C.