Are We There Yet? Health Data Integration

Back in the mid-‘80s, much of our data was stored on analog media. We had cassettes, VHS tapes and albums. Together, they accounted for 26 percent of stored media. Then in the early 2000s, digital storage pushed analog storage aside to become the preferred method of retaining information, whether it was photos, music or other data.

Today, we collectively produce about 2.5 exabytes of data each day. In the early 1990s, the world created a now-paltry 100 gigabytes of data each day; next year it’s expected to be closer to 50,000 gigabytes every second.

This “Big Data” contains all sorts of information about us. What we buy. Where we shop. The movies we like.
Big Data also contains information about our health.

It includes information collected from apps on our smartphones, wearables or Internet of Things-connected devices in the home. It’s the data in medical records that live with health plans, the primary care physician and the specialist.

It’s the information we need to capitalize on today and in the near future to improve our health.

While it’s fairly easy today to predict something at the aggregate level thanks to Big Data, bringing the information to a cohesive individual instance is more difficult. The digital glucose monitor feeds information into a specific app. A digital scale sends its data to another software program. These services may or may not send that information to providers.

Scattershot Approach

Personal health data is scattered and stored in many dissimilar, unconnected devices on proprietary servers that generally don’t talk to each other.

Integrating these devices and the information they collect is the critical next step to improving health on the individual level. We need to be able to share information across devices so, for example, a provider, a care manager, a family member and a patient all can access the same health details in real-time via a single app or device.

For payviders like Kaiser Permanente, this task is relatively easy as they own all the data about individual members and the treatment facilities. HealthConnect is the EHR that links Kaiser providers and members: “It improves member safety and quality of care by providing access to comprehensive patient information and the latest best practice research in one place.”

A great start no doubt, but it leaves out two important factors: healthcare consumers who change health plans and physicians. Every year, 20-30 percent of people change their health insurer for a variety of reasons including changes in employer, wanting a less expensive option or desiring better services. Healthcare consumers are apt to change providers (nearly 60 percent) looking for better treatment and service.

Either way, much of the patient’s health information remains with the original health plan or physician. One can request medical records, of course, but the details often remain fragmented. There’s no central storage of the entire patient health record. The personal health record is a partial answer, but even the information it contains is limited.

At this point, much of this aspect of healthcare remains analog even though healthcare consumers would rather have it be digital: “Increased convenience could be facilitated at the point of patients’ self-research, scheduling, intake, and the discussion and scheduling of follow-on treatment needs,” according to a Deloitte survey. “While this process remains largely manual today, despite significant investment in health IT, expanding the digital connection to providers could enhance convenience and personalization for the health care consumer.”

So are we there yet? Almost, but not quite.

How much of your digital health information is integrated with your care?
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