How Kaiser’s Interchange differs from Aetna’s CarePass

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 4, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAt first blush, it might be tempting to view Kaiser Permanente’s just announced API initiative, Interchange, as a carbon copy of Aetna’s CarePass platform, and while there is a good chance that it will grow to become similar to CarePass, Kaiser Permanente has already made clear that there is an open API line that it won’t cross.

KP’s API initiative will stop at making personal health information shareable via APIs.

“Initially, Interchange by Kaiser Permanente will make our facility and location information available for third party developers to integrate into apps. This includes location, hours of operation, and specialty information for Kaiser Permanente’s 37 hospitals and more than 600 medical offices,” Phil Fasano, executive vice president and chief information officer at Kaiser Permanente told the crowd at Health Datapalooza down in Washington, DC this week. “Our intent is to continue making additional data available to developers via APIs, including research information and wellness data. It is important to note that keeping patient information private and secure is a top priority at Kaiser Permanente and personal health information will not be made available externally via API technology. Our goal is to make information that is already publicly available more accessible in a more efficient way.”

Fasano and Kaiser Permanente are right, of course, to stress the importance of keeping personal health information private and secure, but does that mean people who want to share their data with third party developers should not be able to do so in a more efficient way like, say, via APIs?

Aetna seems to think so. Right now CarePass includes APIs for identity, insurance information, fitness-related information, nutrition info, lifestyle data, and appointment booking data. While it doesn’t yet enable access to personal health information today, Aetna’s future plans for CarePass include making it easy for users to permit the sharing of PHI.

“Third parties will be able to consume PHI when permitted by the user in the near future,” Martha Wofford, head of Aetna’s CarePass platform, told MobiHealthNews in an email. “The third parties will be screened by us” as opposed to “the open access that developers have for fitness and nutrition data (as permitted by the user).”

Kaiser Permanente should be lauded for taking a step toward enabling greater fluidity of health-related data. That’s likely the reason HHS greenlit their three-minute announcement from the event’s stage this week. But will an API initiative like Interchange fall short if it’s not allowing patients to share their personal health data with developers? Is Kaiser being overly conservative?

When should a healthcare provider’s privacy concerns trump a patient’s desire for a more personal digital health service?

  • Sylvia

    As someone who has worked in the healthcare technology field a long time and has seen their data “behind the curtain”, rest assured that there’s not much there that will make a difference for the vast majority of users in a demonstrable way. There’s also a vast overestimation of what doctors can (or care to) do with your “self-tracking” data.

    Think about it very practically: from your last doctor’s visit, what data would you have requested either to export to an external service or vice-versa THAT WOULD CHANGE THEIR (OR YOUR) BEHAVIOR IN A WAY THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE? Blood pressure reading? If the doctor needs Basis to tell him that you need medication for that, you don’t need Basis, you need a new doctor. Let’s try the opposite direction, e.g., maybe export my medication regimen to an app: Are you going to trust any non-certified, non-regulatory approved app you found somewhere on an App Store to replace the opinion of your doctor for say finding cheaper, more generic alternatives? The fact that the data your doctor has on you now is at least a year old doesn’t help. Even if you think these aren’t relevant scenarios and that doctors will get access to your data more regularly than once a year from your annual checkup, ask yourself this: How will doctors get paid for these reviews? There’s currently no financial incentive (or protection) outlined that allows doctors &/or nurses to support this huge time suck.

    All this talk about “Open Health API” this and “Developer Program” that is a feeble attempt to try and capture some of the hipness of the tech sector in what is and will always remain a bureaucratic, languishing, regulatory-constrained industry. It only serves to make more money in conference fees and book sales for Tim O’Reilly and his ilk. Follow the money people, it’s that simple.

  • M A E

    KP is not being too careful. If PHI (Personal Health Information) that originated as KP data becomes public, who will get blamed?

  • Sukhwant Khanuja

    Data can empower the patient and the doctor to provide better care. For example, some patients have elevated Blood Pressure at noon and others at night (non-dippers). If the non-dipper visits the doctor in the morning they would be in control. Doctor really needs to know the Blood pressure at night! Telehealth devices like Blipcare and Basis provide this level of granularity for improved care.

    We have also seen long term trends being very helpful. We have had patients gradually gain weight by 5-6 lbs over a year. Seasonal variation plays a role to. All this when trended, can improve the patient – doctor conversation leading to better patient education.

    When tied via open API’s to patient’s demographic, diagnosis, claims etc we can really improve outcomes.