A recent Pew Research study revealed that 7 in 10 U.S. adults track their health data (a growing number use digital health apps and devices), yet only 1 in 10 share that data with a clinician. This begs the question: in a world where consumers are compelled to share everything from thoughts on celebrity gossip to well-orchestrated videos of themselves being doused with buckets of ice water, do we have a sharing problem? Clearly not. We have a data access problem.
Patients don’t have a simple mechanism and compelling reason for sharing their digital health data with healthcare professionals. Likewise, healthcare professionals don’t have a systematic way of accessing actionable patient generated health data. This disconnect inhibits clinicians from providing preventative care, making more informed patient decisions, uncovering medical breakthroughs, and gaining valuable insights into high-risk patients’ day-to-day activities.
As an emerging and powerful market force, the personalized health movement presents an occasion to construct a revised healthcare system free of silos. We as an industry must consider this opportunity and concentrate efforts on bridging the digital health divide in the near term to avoid exacerbating, and potentially eliminate, health data portability challenges. So, how do we accomplish this?
The Case for Open Data
Recent open data initiatives such as the Open FDA, the efforts of the Health Data Consortium, and standards organizations such as Open mHealth have resulted in collaboration around how digital health data can be utilized in the provision of care. Open data programs like these are key to the future success and financial viability of the healthcare system by providing entrepreneurs, researchers, and clinicians access to large datasets and standard workflows to perform population analysis, aspiring to leading to discovery of otherwise opaque trends and causal relationships.
A New Kind of Interoperability
Interoperability is not a new idea, but it can be revolutionary. Solving healthcare interoperability challenges today would save $30 billion annually in the United States alone. To bridge the digital health divide, interoperability is the solution, and that solution must be three things.
First, the solution must be application, device, and platform agnostic. Healthcare practitioners have always had the burden of reaching a wide range of patients across spectrums of special conditions, socioeconomics, and personal preferences. This challenge is magnified in digital health, where the number of consumer device options is increasing 47% year over year. New entrants such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and others promise to put more health devices into the hands of their consumers. However, these applications are likely to have limited cross-platform communication. Healthcare professionals focused on providing the best care for each patient should not be placed in a position to support one platform over another.
Next, the solution needs to be trustworthy and value the relationship between patients and providers. This means limiting the influence of third party vendors and ensuring that when permissioning health data, patients know exactly who is receiving their data and for what purposes that information will be used.
Finally, the solution must operate with an open philosophy, supporting all platforms and working with every stakeholder in the healthcare community. This is the only way to deliver true interoperability in healthcare, bridge the divide between patient data and the healthcare system, and fix the problems that have burdened healthcare for over 50 years. No one company and no single approach will solve the health data portability challenge.
There have been successful investments in digital health interoperability from leaders such as Kaiser Permanente with virtual visits and My Health Manager to improve patient engagement and population management strategies. Sutter Health and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) are focused on providing new models of preventative care centered around an approach of collecting data from a wide variety of remote patient monitoring devices. This allows PAMF physician teams to intervene before a negative health event occurs. Another banner example is the Mayo Clinic’s mobile application aimed at reducing cardiac readmissions. In the pilot program, Mayo was able to reduce cardiac readmission by 40%. At scale, applications like this can improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of post-op cardiac patients and save the U.S. healthcare system $2 billion annually.
Patients are already using digital health devices and applications in their everyday life, from the healthy to the chronically ill. For this patient data to be truly useful, it must be accessible by and actionable for healthcare professionals. This vision of interoperability is what we at Validic strive to achieve every day, and we have the good fortune of working closely with clients and partners, like those mentioned above, toward this common goal. Working together, we can reach a new standard of interoperability that will improve the quality of care, deliver better outcomes and substantially lower healthcare costs.