- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2018

The digital media firm GlobalData just announced that six artificial intelligence giants — Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle — have joined in a pledge to improve and speed “the progress of health data standards and interoperability,” all aimed at improving patient care and lowering costs.

What’s that mean?

It means watch out America — that patient-doctor relationship is about to be blown apart by Big Technology, Big Government and Big Business.

It also means, once you weed up the lingo and weave past the bureaucratic bull-crappery, America’s once-envied private market health care system is being pushed down the same road walked by the former USSR.

Here’re the haps.

“This big new alliance’s pledge will have a very positive impact on health care as it will become easier to share medical data among hospitals,” said Valentina Gburcik, a GlobalData director, in a written statement. “Both physicians and patients will have easier access to information, which will lead to faster diagnosis and treatment. In the same time, the six tech giants will eventually profit from speeding up their AI research. … If health data is fully standardized and interoperable, the ‘smarter’ AI can progress faster.”

How so?

Because the more data at A.I.’s disposal, the smarter the A.I. program can become. The smarter A.I. becomes, the faster it can teach itself to make medical breakthroughs previously thought impossible.

From Gburcik: “Breaking down barriers between chunks of big data will create extremely large data sets, allowing extensive machine learning to boost AI effectiveness and revolutionize health care systems.”

Sounds amazing. But some definitions are in order.

Standardizing health care is just that — making sure all providers abide the exact same care instructions, across the board. Standardization has its supporters and critics, with the yay side saying it guarantees best practices even as it lowers costs and the nay side decrying the intrusions on doctor-patient privacies and decision-making abilities.

Either way, true standardization relies on the ability of providers to access medical records. And not just the records within their respective facilities — rather, all the medical records, all the patient data, all the health care information from all the pertinent health care players, across the entire nation.

There’s a word for that access: interoperability.

These six artificial intelligence giants — Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle — just signed a letter from the Information Technology Industry Council that presses government and private sector parties to do away with any barriers that prevent “the adoption of technologies for health care interoperability.”

That would be patient privacies, for one. It would have to happen.

Out go the individual’s expectation of medical records’ privacies; in comes the prioritization of the health care as a collective, not individual, good. The medical breakthroughs may be significant. But the flip side is that suddenly, it’s not you and the doctor in that office. It’s you and the doctor and a nationally approved streamlined course of care, based on Big Data collection, Big Business information-sharing and A.I.-fueled decisions. And when you’re done? Count on your outcomes — the success or failure of your medical treatment — being fed as fuel to the machine learning beast.

But here’s the real drop mic moment.

The Center for Medical Interoperability, a facility in Nashville, Tennessee, aimed at transforming America’s heath system includes this post on its website, taken from the Nashville Business Journal: “When looking for technological advancements, few look to the former USSR, but one of Nashville’s health care leaders did exactly that when searching for a way to solve what is one of the industry’s biggest problems: interoperability.”

The post goes on to recount how the Center for Medical Interoperability’s CEO, Ed Cantwell, traveled to Estonia to uncover the secrets of becoming a “digital powerhouse.” And what he found was this: “Estonia’s fledgling government created a digital society … The government created an interoperability platform that allows government records to work together,” the site stated.

Great for Estonia. But here in America, medical records are private — they’re not files of the government. They’re not pools of data waiting for Big Tech, Big Business to tap.

At least, not yet.

In mid-August, several Information Technology Industry Council-tied members participated in a White House meeting on using cloud technology for health care data storage. One remark from Microsoft Healthcare’s corporate vice president, Peter Lee?

“The health care industry’s shift to the cloud gives the world a historic opportunity to ensure that frictionless and secure interoperability of health data becomes a reality,” he said.

Move over, free market. Hello Estonia? Goodbye private and personal doctor-patient relation. The tech giants are taking over the clipboards.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter @ckchumley.

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