Threading the Needles: Correlating Disparate Data for Connected Care

By Charles Aunger

From smartphones to wearables to EHRs, healthcare data is being collected at unprecedented speeds and across a multitude of platforms. Unfortunately, the consumerization of healthcare technology thus far has only enabled the collection of fragmented data. As the U.S. healthcare system shifts to address the current chronic disease epidemic, disrupting these data siloes will be key to the continuous, connected care delivery model of the future. I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Health IT Summit and Health Slam about why and how we must redesign our healthcare system to empower both individuals and physicians with the data they need at their fingertips.

Imagine enabling an individual to easily share the data from her fitness app with her physician, whenever and wherever she chooses. Like threading a needle, the data would flow securely and precisely where it is needed within set parameters. And that’s just one health tool. Now imagine connecting all of the individual’s myriad digital health tools across provider systems and throughout physicians’ offices. It is a task akin to lining up several needles and using that single thread to connect them all. I know it sounds incredibly difficult, but it’s the only way we are going to see real breakthroughs in care.

This was the thinking driving this year’s Health Slam and Health IT Summit, where we discussed why we need to change our perspective, why we need to rethink the healthcare business model, and why the system needs a redesign — as well as the rewards for rising to those challenges. What would happen if we connected devices, data, systems, and people around improved health data aggregation and correlation? What if we made all that data relevant, secure, and actionable.

The central issue is the digital transformation of healthcare, and data exchange is the linchpin for modernization. Leading providers have been trying to solve for the interoperability challenge, but success has been minimal and industry pain points remain intransigent. Most efforts have been confined to insular bubbles, reliant on and subject to isolated resources. The result is cobbled-together Band-Aid solutions to support superannuated and failing legacy systems. Healthcare IT, IoT investments, and associated products are abundant, yet the cost of healthcare continues to go up and the industry becomes less and less productive each year. To achieve interoperability and enable data that fosters critical lifestyle changes, we have to stop trying to preserve existing business models and protecting the data siloes we’ve created.

We must flip the paradigm: take a bottom-up approach that yields benefits to individuals, physicians, providers, and payers alike. That begins with freeing data at the individual level, and innovating in ways that support the patient-physician relationship, securely enable data flow, and ensure real-time communication between all authorized parties. We also have to make health data meaningful — too little and it serves no purpose, too much and the individual doesn’t get the precise information needed.

I enjoyed hearing analysis from fellow speakers, including John McDaniel, SVP of Innovation and Technology at HCI Group, and Edward You, Supervisory Special Agent, FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Biological Countermeasures Unit. McDaniel spoke about the opportunity for triage protocols and algorithms that support population health analytics and create predictive and preventative health technology, while Supervisory Special Agent You addressed the importance of security for connected data.

While there were many great takeaways, there was one idea that garnered unanimous consensus at both summits: Application data integration is everything. Without it, we won’t affect anything. If we can get the connectivity and the security right, we can reimagine modern healthcare — discover new connections between disparate data, aggregate in real-time, create new revenue cycles and better diagnostics tools, and drive dramatically improved care outcomes.

If we can seamlessly and simultaneously thread those needles, we can truly begin to enhance care delivery and cultivate lasting behavior modification. We can create care plans that actively learn from people’s data and proactively communicate important information, irrespective of geography or demographics. In doing so, create a new system with strengthened ties between individuals and their caregivers, and enable the continuous engagement needed in the management of chronic diseases.

I look forward to continuing these conversations with bright minds and moving the needle (pun intended) in healthcare. The power of correlated data wielded at the individual level, securely accessed and easily and productively shared, will transform healthcare.