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Four Ideas to Leverage the Maximum Potential of Data in Health Care

Medical staff at Dorot Medical Centre in Netanya work at a station equipped with a screen showing data from EarlySense wireless hospital bed monitors, which from beneath a mattress can detect a patient's heart and respiratory rate and movement, May 12, 2014. EarlySense is evaluating a possible initial public offering in 2015 after already raising $46 million, Chief Executive Avner Halperin said.

Data is at the center of the health care revolution. Increasingly medical providers are transferring paper records into digital formats. Patients are also interacting with health care systems through search engines, online forums, social media, and apps. The convergence of these trends generates staggering amounts of data and creates the potential to revolutionize medicine. Several challenges remain that government and the private sector can address with smart policies.

Barriers to Innovation

Determining who will host medical records presents unique challenges. Diverse organizations must share valuable and sensitive data in order for the entire system to benefit.

Interoperability is crucial to a functional data system, but variations in technical specifications, language, and semantics make it difficult for systems to communicate with one another. Standards have already been set that have helped manufacturers and software designers build more compatible systems.

It is critical to design privacy controls into the structure of large data systems. This will give patients confidence about the security of their data. Because of the unique nature of medical data, it is also difficult to provide restitution in the event of data breach. Determining a fair method that compensates medical patients for a “loss of privacy” is difficult.

Network security in the medical industry lags behind the more mature and sophisticated systems in the banking and e-commerce sectors. Deploying the most advanced security tools is critical to protecting patient data.

The use of Big Data is supposed to lead to greater efficiency and depth of insights, but implementing and maintaining these solutions can be expensive. Cost efficiency must also be achieved if Big Data solutions are to be viable.

Recommendations to Move Health Care Data Management Forward

  1. Designing people-centered systems, with an emphasis on individual experience, will increase the odds that patients will incorporate technology into their real-time decision making.
  2. Creating rapid learning models will increase the pace of research. This will reduce the time it takes to disseminate valuable insights that will improve patient care.
  3. The functionality of health data systems depends on the breadth of accessible medical records and the size of the network. Stakeholders must create incentives for health care providers to adopt standards of interoperability.
  4. Providers must inform patients about the types of personal data stored in health data systems, which requires a commitment to educating patients on these processes as they are developed and implemented. In addition, patients must also have confidence in the privacy of the data being collected, which reiterates the importance of designing highly secure systems.

Interested to learn more about data and health care? Read The Emerging Revolution in Health Care by Darrell West and Niam Yaraghi.

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