The title of this post is both literal and figurative. Yes data does travel at the speed of light, however progress in developing a nationwide interoperable network has been much slower.
The idea of a NHIN has been around since the early 21st Century and there have been many regional attempts, a few which have been successful, thus far.
Regional health information exchanges have made some progress, however ‘buy in’ is still difficult to promote in competing hospital systems.
Fueling this progress has been the following, promoted by the “Open Government” policies which encourage and entrepenurial spirit in both government and the private venture capital market. No longer will government be the main engine for building a national network, it will function as a “convener” as stated by Aneesh Chopra
The White House and ONC announced that providers and public health agencies in Minnesota and Rhode Island began exchanging health information using specifications developed by the Direct Project, an 'open government' initiative that calls on cooperative efforts by organizations in the health care and information technology sectors. (February 2, 2011)
The press conference was moderated by Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy, ONC, and includes remarks from Dr. David Blumenthal and Aneesh Chopra.
There is has been progress in the NHIN is outlined here:
It was obvious from the enclosed video from this meeting that the principals (lots of fist pumps, back slapping, and handshakes)
Speakers included industry and government professionals who helped make the Direct Project launch a success: Mark Briggs, MSc, Chief Executive Officer, VisionShare; Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer, Allscripts; Sean Nolan, Chief Architect, Microsoft Health Solutions; and, Albert Puerini, Jr, MD, President and CEO, Polaris Medical Management, President and CEO, Rhode Island Primary Care Physicians; and, Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Some consternation was expressed about the barrier of HIPAA as it is now structured. Many secure transactions already do occur via the internet and some of those secure features should be used to transmit health data.
It becomes obvious technology is outstripping regulatory and legal concerns. It became obvious as well that ‘data” can be transmitted packaged in secure email as a pdf or text file from provider to provider. That is an elegant and simple means to do so. It does not allow for data fields for analysis, however that is another matter. And it is truly separate.
The basic patient centric model involves only provider-patient-provider interaction, and this must take precedence. The rest is frosting on the cake. (author’s opinion)
Insurers and government agencies who want that data should develop a system that can extract what they need as a separate and isolated goal.