IDBS Blog | 30th January 2013

The Healing Power of Data

I urge you to read John Nosta’s recent article in Forbes. He explains how digital technology has failed to keep pace with clinical innovations. I like to compare it to how the telecoms industry was 20 years ago – data is siloed, private and in no format to be shared. What changed? A shift change in connectivity of data (and then devices) that has changed the world; healthcare must do the same. In this digital age, where Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are everywhere, much of practical, medical decision-making continues to be paper and document driven.

This makes data-needy questions even harder to answer. It makes insight very localized and limits information sharing and collaboration. There is certainly progress, through outcome access to EHRs driven by HIPAA (USA) or using national databases like CRPD (UK), and there is a growing rash of personal genomic informatics and ‘quantified self’ startups. However barriers to effective collaboration between the stakeholders of patient, clinician, pharma and payer still remain. As Dr Eric Topol espouses: patients – the consumers of healthcare, which now costs the USA one hundred times what it did in 1960 – deserve evidence-based medical care and that evidence is a complex mixture of genomic, outcome and research data.

The health sciences world is waking up to the reality that advances in healthcare will be enabled by advances in our ability to use data better – from the bench to the bedside and to the boardrooms of hospitals. It is important to stress that we are talking about high quality, high context data. As DrSalluzzo points out, automating a bad pharmacy process is hard to correct. The quality of data is intrinsic to its value. In truth, so much of the data patients are asking clinicians and researchers to rely upon is full of gaps. The insights gained from bringing together the best available clinical, research and biochemical data drive valuable changes in clinical practice, address data gaps and advance medical care.

Better data, better decisions, better life.

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