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Success Stories: Debi Willis, Consumer Health Data Aggregator Challenge

MEET: Debi Willis, CEO/Founder of software development company PatientLink, Oklahoma City

THE CHALLENGE: The Consumer Health Data Aggregator Challenge, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Launched in June 2016, this challenge sought the development of apps to help consumers collect their health data from different sources in one, easy-to-use product. Winners were announced in December 2016.

THE PRIZE: $50,000 for first place

THE SOLUTION: MyLinks is an interactive platform that allows patients to import their medical information from all their health providers and mobile devices, transmit their records, plus link to researchers, pharmacists, caregivers, and family and friends. MyLinks is built using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) application programming interface (API), the newest technology standard for healthcare interoperability. Patient health information is pulled into MyLinks as structured data, allowing consumers to easily aggregate data from many sources.

IN HER OWN WORDS…

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF YOUR SOLUTION?

In 2015, ONC published a “Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap,” which included a vision for patients to be able to retrieve their own health data. MyLinks brings that vision to life.

We are on the verge of a new era in healthcare, with patients taking a more active role in their care and health decisions. Many hospital stays will be replaced with remote monitoring in patients’ homes. With MyLinks, data will flow freely to and from patients, allowing patients and providers to more easily understand and monitor health conditions. Patients will be able to share their full medical records with research – giving researchers better, faster, and less costly data – to find cures faster. Patients will be able to connect with and encourage each other in a safe and private social platform.

I believe that patients having electronic access and control of their full medical record will have more impact on health outcomes in the future than physicians’ use of electronic health records (EHR). Patients will now have their own EHR in the palm of their hand, and a network of people to encourage and help them get better and stay better!

HOW HAS PARTICIPATING IN THIS CHALLENGE HELPED YOU ADVANCE YOUR WORK?

It has been a tremendous encouragement to our team to be recognized by ONC as the BEST! Because of the win, we have enjoyed increased exposure for our company and received many requests for demonstrations of our product. This has given us an opportunity to show our technology, expand our user base, and connect with organizations who understand the value of unlocking data. We were no longer a single voice calling out the potential to change the way medicine is practiced, but we were validated by the most prestigious health IT organization in the United States, ONC!

We also received more positive collaboration with the EHR vendors. When they realized we were working to compete in an ONC contest, they wanted to show their own advancement in the use of FHIR and this pushed them further in their development and testing.

STATUS:

MyLinks is complete and currently waiting on the FHIR API to be installed at clinics. A new mandate, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018, requires providers to allow patients to download their health records using any application of their choice, but the application must be built according to the EHRs API specifications. The FHIR API is a new technology standard that EHR vendors are including in their new releases this year to facilitate interoperability. As the FHIR API is being rolled out across the United States, Willis and her team are working with clinics to test MyLinks with their systems to prepare them for the 2018 mandate. Most health systems are testing the FHIR API in their test environments and many expect to place the API into production in October 2017. When they are ready to start using FHIR, health systems will be sending out invitations to their patients to allow them to join MyLinks.

MyLinks is free to physicians and to patients. Contact Debi Willis at Debi@MyLinks.com for more information.

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Since its inception in 2010, GSA’s Challenge.gov program has provided resources and training to federal agencies using crowdsourcing competitions to solve critical problems. More than 770 competitions have been listed on Challenge.gov, where citizens can find and participate in crowdsourcing events open to the public. Success Stories is an ongoing series that highlights past winners and their work.

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