Healthcare has made many strides in technology and digital tools, but it’s still lacking is in one area. That is: properly using patient data.
When patient data is effectively used, it makes the healthcare experience far better for the people seeking care, and it can improve their outcomes. Properly using healthcare data can also improve operations for providers, payers and other healthcare companies.
What Do We Mean by Patient Data?
When we’re talking about patient data, we’re not just talking about protected health information (PHI) or personal identifiable information (PII). There are other types of data that fall under the category of patient data that aren’t subject to HIPAA regulations. Some of the first things that come to mind are search queries that users are putting into an app. What are some insights that we can gain from analyzing the keywords our users are searching for? Using that data, how might we come out with predictive models to better inform other users?
We can even drill down further into the patient’s journey by looking at anonymized claims and reimbursement data. How might we aggregate this data set at a national level to see if certain patient groups are receiving affordable care that matches quality outcomes? What are some risk factors associated with certain lifestyle choices and demographic information that we can educate patients around? These are just some of the questions that can be answered through quantifiable data.
How Does Healthcare Actually Improve Patient Data?
Let’s look at a big picture example. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service aggregates data from everyone. They take that data, hire an analytics company and predict the likelihood of certain outcomes for patients who might be at risk. Seeing this data, the providers and facilities are now empowered to meet with these at-risk patients and encourage them to be proactive about their health.
Now let’s take a look at a more specific example. Say that you had a 3 p.m. appointment at a physician’s office. At 3:30 p.m., a healthcare app notices that you’re still active on your phone and will assume that you’ve been waiting for at least 30 minutes to be taken into an examination room. At that moment, the app pushes a notification asking that you leave a review about the wait time for your current visit.
This is an example of leveraging micromoments. There are moments that stay relevant in your mind for a brief second — before other information starts to distract you from taking action on them. Going back to the previous example of you waiting for 30 minutes to be seen by a provider, if you had taken action on leaving a quick star rating around your wait time, that data could have greatly improved the healthcare that other patients would receive.
Who Would Use This Data?
If we’re focusing on how a patient’s outcome can be improved, then every constituent who’s a part of a patient’s medical journey (providers, payers, patients and other healthcare companies) needs to have the ability to properly leverage the data. With the patient’s consent, this data would be shared in a way that reduces waste, improves efficacy and encourages more active buy-in and engagement from the patients themselves. Rather than being reactionary, we have to encourage patients to own more responsibilities around proactive measures that can help reduce the risk of certain conditions.
What creates sticky behaviors? What are some aspects of a patient’s life that healthcare companies can insert themselves into and provide value-adds? How can a healthcare company stay relevant in the day-to-day lives of their users so that, when a medical need arises, the user is fully aware of the steps that need to be taken to get to a resolution? It’s on healthcare companies to ideate and build out features that help encourage these types of behaviors, perhaps through different mediums — for example, wearable technology.
Sounds Great. Why Aren’t We Using It?
There are a few barriers, but nothing is impossible to overcome. One thing that patients and even healthcare professionals worry about is identity protection. From a healthcare perspective, you always want to comply with HIPAA. For patients, there’s a fear of their data being used irresponsibly or even being stolen. However, it’s easy to anonymize PHI and PII so that data collected isn’t tied to a specific person. One way to encourage patients to be open to sharing health data is through transparency: being able to assure that data is stored properly and used effectively. Offering philanthropic or altruistic drives can also encourage people to share health data, because then they can see the societal benefit they are contributing to.
In the current state, providers can sometimes feel like they’re part of a protected category because they’re the subject-matter experts used to patients just receiving information from them instead of this back-and-forth dialogue we usually expect when it comes to other service models. We want to leverage patient data to empower those patients to have better relationships with their medical providers and facilities by creating accountability on both ends.
At the end of the day, the more data that patients and their healthcare providers and payers can effectively utilize, the better the patient’s healthcare experience will be. The entire point of healthcare is to help people live their most optimal lives. Properly using patient data can get us there more quickly.