Inmar Inc. | May 28, 2015

There's a digital divergence in healthcare and we are intent on solving it. The explosion of health data in recent years bears potential for great benefit, but unfortunately, it's all in different places and there's no single assemblage of it.

Consider it like a photo album: A single photo is not a person — you can't tell everything about an individual by looking at one snapshot. You only get a more complete sense of who someone really is by looking at an entire photo album, seeing them with family and friends, on vacation, with pets, neighbors and so forth. Social media splinters that even more with contextual identities posted very intentionally in every social media application, but none of those necessarily extends beyond its own context.

Healthcare is very much like that. People have patient records at their primary doctor, specialists, pharmacy, urgent care, and now the retail clinics they may visit anywhere it's convenient. Except in the less-common circumstance where all those entities are operated by the same health system, none of them has a single, complete portrait of a single patient.

The various electronic health record vendors are working toward information sharing, but they are still in the evolutionary stages and the best they have right now is the capability to request information from each other when the patient consents to that sharing.

So Inmar is taking it on in a very exciting way. We're launching the Inmar Digital Health Challenge. We're challenging innovators nationwide to share their ideas for utilizing all available technologies to make healthcare more personalized and precise, accessible and of higher quality, while reducing cost and increasing efficiency. The challenge opened in May and runs through July, with teams vying for a $25,000 award and an audience with up to four potential funding sources for their solution. With the May 30 application deadline fast approaching, the energy is building.

We're partnering in this challenge with our neighbor, Flywheel, the entrepreneurs' co-work and collaborative workspace provider here in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem, NC, where Inmar is headquartered.

While the competition isn't solely about solving the single-identity conundrum, it has the potential for that as a result. In using this space to talk-up the contest, I want to point out an even greater value that is an absolute must in solving the riddle of the single patient portrait: Collaboration.

Sure, Inmar could just put our data scientists and healthcare solution experts to work on something, and we are. However, it's still crucially important to look at the situation through a broader lens. In the gold-rush environment of health data solutions, few will be served by thousands of answers. The best solutions will arise from a combination of resources, and more importantly, collaborative thinking.

The proliferation of health data, specialization of care and growing number of service options has the individual person's data so segmented that a unification of that data will be critical in improving quality of care. While the choice of service options is good for patient care, the quality of care those various outlets can provide will quickly become deeply dependent upon access to a single health portrait of the patient.

As the data proliferate among providers, they also appear in new, uncharted platforms. Personal monitoring data from wearable tech and smartphones are giving patients their first-ever opportunity to share the kind of daily data that paint a picture providers have really never been able to see. We have to make it possible for them to see it.

As new technologies emerge and the data from them proliferate, it's not only important to follow it outward to new horizons; it is also incumbent on us all to be mindful of how we can — and should — focus inwardly toward how we can come together to understand the best ways to benefit the patients whose lives it represents.

Innovation in such a personal realm is too important to allow us to forget that, in the race to the great solution, perhaps many of us together are more powerful than any one of us with the best idea.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.