As we all know data is “King”, and nowhere that is more apparent than in healthcare. Healthcare data presents problems because it is, for the most part, private and confidential. So, all healthcare patient data needs to be de-identifiable before it is released and granted consent before it can be used. Companies in the industry are confronting this head-on, but what is the right solution?

By Gilbert J. Carrara, MD
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Over the holiday, I read a publication highlighting a significant issue facing the healthcare industry today - data fragmentation. This article stated that a few companies in the world are tackling this issue so that patients, providers, payers, healthcare data analytic companies, governmental agencies, and life science companies can exchange patient-level data securely. One such company is Datavant which is set to become one of the world’s largest healthcare data ecosystems.

The CEO of Datavant, Pete McCabe, stated recently that he is looking forward to the day that the patient is empowered with data and is put at the center of their care. Just imagine that anytime you enter a hospital or physician’s office, the entire medical team would have all of your previous documented medical information saved to a shared electronic medical record system, leading to a faster diagnosis and cost savings from unnecessary duplicated tests.

A recent McKinsey study showed that 20-25% of US healthcare spending or approximately $1 trillion dollars is currently wasted, and 50%-75% of this waste could be eliminated by using an updated and shared electronic medical platform.

However, data fragmentation is a daunting and costly problem for the US healthcare system. Thousands of healthcare organizations each have their own IT platforms, standards, and privacy controls. Currently, not a single US medical institution has a complete picture of any single patient. 

An interesting sideline argument to this technology is, who will own your data? Datavant states that from a collaborative viewpoint, they are neutral. They do not sell data or analyze it. Instead, they “create data liquidity in a ubiquitous, privacy-centric neutral way, with all the data stewardship control to the sources.” Honestly, I do not know what that statement means and find it worrisome that all of our medical data will eventually help offset the costs companies incur when making the drugs they sell back to us.

I want everyone to benefit from new research and improvements in healthcare, but just like Google, they will make trillions of dollars in profits from the information we give them freely. It is something to think about...

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