Health 2.0: Data — how to organize, access, and use it

One of the main focuses of the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA this year was on data.

Not the collection of data — we have plenty of that and the means to do it. This year was focused on the need to aggregate data and make it more organized and accessible so we can start using it to improve patient outcomes and the overall condition of healthcare in the United States.

For years, we have been collecting increasing amounts of healthcare data and storing it in vast silos. Because of technological limits and patient privacy concerns, we have yet to organize this data in a format that will make it available and useful to healthcare providers and patients. One of the goals of the conference was to discuss both emerging and improved technologies that can be used to arrange this data to inform healthcare decisions for individual patients as well as provide insights into how to treat and prevent different disease states. This discussion can serve as a basis from which to inform policy as we adjust to new norms within the healthcare industry.

Some of the main problems were distilled down and articulated in a talk by Tariq Dastagir, MD, Lead Medical Director of Transcend Insights/Humana. He focused on four areas where we need to improve as a next step to solving the issues associated with the accessibility and use of data within the healthcare industry:

  1. Bridging silos
    We need to find a consistent means to share data between various individual organizations so that we can use it to its full potential.
  2. Refining the analytics process
    We have lots of data, now what can we do with it? Healthcare analytics is a relatively new field, but as it gains steam and proves its value, the potential of using data to improve patient outcomes increases significantly.
  3. Leveraging big data
    How do we leverage data at the population level to help at the individual patient level?
  4. Improving collaboration
    Technology alone is not the answer. How do we integrate technology, data and care providers to co-create tomorrow’s solutions?

An example of these insights being put into practice was discussed in a talk by Mark A. Tripodi, Chief Development Officer of Venebio Group. He explained the Venebio’s focus on using data and analytics to help prevent opioid overdoses. The American opioid crisis is well documented, but so far few have come up with viable solutions to the problem. Restricting quantities or access to the medication has made it more difficult for those who truly need the drugs and has created the unintended side effect of pushing addicts toward illegal drugs like fentanyl and heroin, essentially making the problem worse.

The Venebio Group is working toward a solution by creating data analysis algorithms intended to assess risk factors of individual patients or entire patient populations. Pulling data from individual health records, insurance databases and state-run prescription-drug monitoring databases for controlled substances, Venebio can start to provide individualized risk factor profiles that can be used to support a physician’s clinical decision making at the moment they are crafting a treatment plan.

Leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the ubiquitous smartphone, people can get better information about their own health.

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