In the previous article we discussed how the rise of innovative digital health technologies has increased the ease of capturing, using, and sharing PGHD. These digital health technologies can empower patients to capture, use, and share PGHD to better manage their health and to participate in their health care. We ended the article outlining three barriers of digital health: interconnectability, regulations, and reimbursements. Let’s discuss these three barriers and a few more.
Recent advancements in consumer directed personal computing technology have led to the generation of biomedically-relevant data streams with potential health applications. As the Economist pointed out in a January 2018 post, a fundamental problem with the American healthcare system is that patients lack knowledge and control. And while medical data may not seem like the type to stimulate a revolution, studies show that patients with such access have a better understanding of their illnesses, and that their treatment is more successful. Digital health uses technology to deliver care and information to patients and providers that is more convenient, cost effective, and personalized. The technology-driven mindset of today’s consumer has shifted the expectations patients have when it comes to providing and receiving healthcare information. Patient education and control is just one side of the healthcare spectrum when it comes to PGHD. A study published in the Annals of Medicine, found that 29 percent of a physician’s total work time was spent talking with patients or other staff members and another 49 percent was spent on electronic record keeping and desk work.
Here lies the first barrier of digital health and PGHD; the ability to have patient data before and after care is not supported by many Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems – leaving the job of collecting data up to clinicians and staff during a patient visit. Today, many healthcare providers meet these digital service expectations through enhanced connectivity in order to promote better health outcomes. The key to making the information actionable is to open up the interface and to store it together with traditional medical records. Standards are being developed to improve interoperability of data and remove friction from workflows. However, in order for a healthcare organization to make the information actionable and implement new standards of care, a few additional barriers should ultimately be discussed. These barriers include access, usability, education, health literacy, economic disparities, and similar factors. Access to patients’ health records during routine consultations can improve diagnosis and reduce medical errors during emergencies.
The opportunity to link the communication gap between patients and providers beyond the walls of the hospital is one of the most meaningful advantages of PGHD. Today, consumers have the power to take control of their health through smartphone apps, wearables and other connected devices. This kind of simple, immediate access is also changing consumer attitudes and expectations when it comes to healthcare. The rise of PGDH as a health personalization and management tool has resulted in major industry stakeholders suggesting that healthcare as a whole will adapt to this trend. For this transformation to succeed, collaboration is necessary between different players.
Finally, ensuring the privacy and security of health data is a major concern. Data breaches in healthcare are a real problem, and patients and providers need to be educated on the risks so they can decide if they are willing to accept them.