There is currently a big push in the medical industry for more providers and related companies to make use of health data. There’s a wealth of information out there, but most of it is stored in ways that make it almost impossible to use it to improve actual clinical outcomes. While there is a lot of value to be extracted from all of this information, there are also special challenges that have kept its use from becoming widespread so far, though there are now companies that are overcoming these challenges and improving health management.
It’s important that health data management be done with great care, both to stay within the bounds of the laws and out of a more general desire to protect patient privacy. Traditionally, doctors have simply had their patient files in their own offices, and only exchange data when they have explicit written permission from the patient. While waiting for permission is good practice, maintaining everything in a paper form makes it much more difficult to get the files to a specialist when needed, or for a facility like an emergency department to get access to important information quickly so that they can diagnose and treat while accounting for a particular patient’s history.
Even once the issue of access is handled, there will need to be continued attention to what is population health management and how will it fit into the larger medical system. There are companies that specialize in processing and analyzing data who can now look through a massive number of health records that have been modified to ensure patient privacy, and can then extract subtle patterns from them that have never been obvious before. Based on this analysis, clinical providers and health insurance companies can make smarter decisions about what treatments are appropriate in various situations.
Handling patient information is a delicate task, and every decision involved must be made with attention to how patients can be protected and their privacy ensured. As the system becomes better at compiling this information safely, however, it is opening the doors to health management at a population scale that will make it easier to keep people healthy and to support their needs.