The Healthcare Industry and Professionalized Data Management
It is a well-known fact in the world of healthcare that the quantity of medical information collected on the planet doubles every nine months. While the worldwide population is growing at a comparatively slow rate, the explosion of information relative to these individuals is following an exponential curve. So the future of healthcare will have to deal with a large amount of data and the question of how to deal with it.
A lot of data on a desert island
Data is at the heart of medicine and that has always been the case, but information today is increasingly digitalized. The evolution has been surprisingly slow nonetheless and a significant part of the medical information produced is still circulating from professional to professional in a manual or physical form. Professionals’ communication may have switched from letters to emails for the most part but there haven’t been many efforts to develop collaborative tools. Furthermore a survey of this data reveals that the process and management of medical data is not yet organized globally in any way. This discrepancy is already strongly regrettable at the level of an individual patient having to collect, centralize and safeguard his/her own information. It’s an even greater waste at the level of global organization. Data is not only useful locally. It’s also an exceptional management tool: it’s a way of measuring outcomes, the efficiency of treatments and of public policies, and steering investments and research for the future. Yes, it is possible to find “islands” of managed data today, but there is no systematic global management of data, as we speak, at a regional level or even local level. If we take the example of France, even at the level of a single hospital, it is still very difficult to obtain a condensed catalogue of any medical issue. Each department has its own parameters and method of analyzing and organizing data. As a result, healthcare today could be much more efficient with efficient data management. Today, there is no available infrastructure for data management because the data is organized as in an archipelago: it’s an island here and an island there but they are not connected.
The forms of communication and the data collected
In healthcare, information generally follows a circular, iterative pathway:
Data is therefore as much a management tool (to measure, analyze, manage quality and security) as it is a clinical tool (to coordinate, manage the care journey, share patient information data, etc.). Efficient healthcare requires data management and interconnectivity: the healthcare eco-system will therefore become increasingly dependent on partners, integrators and providers of end-to-end solutions. Healthcare will need services such as collection, transfer, hosting, restitution, analysis (BI, big data) to bridge the gap between HCP, modalities and patients, and medical software and devices. Information has to be delivered between professionals within a professional environment, from patient to a professional (remote healthcare monitoring services of an individual patient on a one-to-one basis) or directly to the patient (preventive services).
Don’t forget! Data management and culture
The more we speak of globalization, the more cultural questions come up. The example of the New Zealanders who fully accept the automatic disclosure of their personal medical history with a view to facilitating treatment, tracked with the help of their social security number alone, calls for reflection, since something like that would never be possible in Germany. An ethical question as much as it is one of policy making, open data presents some strong advantages in emergency situations, but at the same time calls for strong government control to deter profit seekers and enforce ethical behavior. However, as every culture has a different definition of ethics, the debate on data collection and security is not going to be solved on a global level for some time to come.