April 11, 2019
In many different industries, the rise of “big data” has accelerated in recent years. Now more than ever, we’re collecting more data with more context, but the question remains of how those industries will harness all that data. In healthcare, the goal seems simple: improve patient outcomes while tackling the steadily rising cost of healthcare as a whole. But how will we get there? A new report from Stanford Medicine suggests that the key to both of these issues lies in the “democratization of health care.”
Data is outgrowing our current processes
For Stanford’s second annual healthcare report, they took a deep dive into the data and processes that make up the framework of our modern health system. What they found, according to the report, is that “we haven’t yet reached the promised land of digitally enabled healthcare and open access to data.”
Due to the newfound ability and importance of sharing medical data, the report calls for the walls to come down and for the sharing of patient data be made easier, in a secure way. Because there is no central storehouse of healthcare data, the industry is limited in “the quality of care physicians can deliver to their patients, as some of the most essential data points may be shielded behind virtual walls or slow-moving processes.”
Sharing data is key to improving patient outcomes
The healthcare industry at large needs to invest in the technologies that can facilitate the sharing of this data. One such solution, highlighted by Stanford’s report, is the better use of application programming interfaces, otherwise known as APIs:
“API technology has the potential to advance interoperability in health care, and by extension, accelerate democratization. One such API solution is Health Level 7 International’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), a standards framework for data formatting and an API for exchanging electronic health records. In practice, it encourages the transfer of data by reducing the time and effort it takes application developers to connect to EHR systems and exchange health data.“
All of this sharing isn’t for just for sharing’s sake. Stanford reports that by smoothing the hurdles that it takes for data to be transferred from one point to another, the healthcare industry is cleaning up a lot of “messy” data that can occur when multiple systems, administrators, and organizations have to adapt data to fit their qualifications. Cleaner data means that it’s easier to analyze, which means it’s easier to draw insights from, and those insights can then be used to improve patient outcomes.
Collaboration is the way forward
Sharing is never a simple task, and that remains true when the data is as important as patient health information. However, organizations like Health Level 7 are working toward building a healthcare industry that is more focused on the good that sharing and democratizing data can bring.
The Stanford report concludes by saying that even though there are issues that stand between us and a completely democratized health industry, “the road to democratization will achieve substantial benefits for patients, providers, and the system as a whole.”
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