‘Big Data’ Dawns on Health-Care Industry
Technological Innovations Result in Real-Time Medical Records That Engage Patients, Aid Doctors
A new breed of patients are becoming intrinsically engaged, active participants in their health care thanks to a series of technological innovations aimed at enhancing medical research.
Among the technological innovations: monitoring devices. Wearable computerized gadgets can track patients’ blood pressures, glucose levels, heart rates and other vital and nonvital statistics – information then can be collated with data from another technological innovation: electronic health records. Electronic health records, known in the industry as EHR, add a new dynamic to project studies by providing real-time information about patients’ conditions, side effects, symptoms and treatments.
Put together, the dual advancements will arm doctors with a better understanding of which therapies work best for those under their care.
“When linked to the rest of the available electronic data, patient-generated health data completes the big data picture of real people’s needs, life beyond the health-care system, and how changes in health and health care lead to meaningful changes in people’s lives,” said Dr. Amy Abernethy, senior author of an abstract titled “Assessing the Value of Patient-Generated Data to Comparative Effectiveness Research.”
The analysis led by Abernethy and other researchers at Duke Medicine effectively declares a new paradigm in the medical-research world led by the aforementioned “big data.”
“…health studies are now poised to integrate data from a much larger pool of information,” reads a Duke Medicine press release titled “New Technologies Fuel Patient Participation and Data Collection in Research.” “The new data is immediate and actionable, providing not only research material, but also clinical information that can improve the patient’s care in the short term.”
Abernethy, director of Duke Medicine’s Center for Learning Health Care, took the analysis a step further by concluding the technological innovations have the potential to positively impact the health of entire populations, in addition to individual patients. The current protocol of clinical trials, in which a somewhat-random collection of qualified men and women are used to test new devices, drugs, equipment, etc., possibly could turn into a thing of the past.
“Generalizing data from these trials to larger, more heterogeneous populations to determine treatment effectiveness can be problematic,” she said. “Further, it takes years – often more than a decade – for a trial to progress from the idea stage to actionable information, and cost and complexity mean that some important questions go unanswered.”
Because EHR provide the “big data” from a less-random and more-diverse pool of participants, it is believed the information will be useful for current and future patients, said Abernethy, noting the technological innovations are fueling new studies funded by the NIH Collaboratory and Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
“The value of engaging with patients to generate the information needed to provide care that is truly patient-centered and individualized will benefit society as a whole,” she said. “With this kind of information, health care and health-care research can be truly patient-centric.”
The questions presented by these new developments can be difficult, though. Will the health care industry, hospitals and doctors use these new technology as avenues to improving patient care or to maximizing the number of patients that can be handled in an effort to produce a better bottom line?
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