Big Data pushing democratization of healthcare, but barriers remain
- Healthcare is becoming more democratized, with providers and patients possessing more data, an accelerating pace of data exchange and better tools to interpret results, according to Stanford Medicine's just-released 2018 Health Trends Report.
- Driving the movement are advances in AI and machine learning, partnerships between tech companies and healthcare organizations and efforts to ensure data privacy and security.
- Still, obstacles remain — among them, accessibility, data quality, physician burnout and ethical guidelines for sharing patient data for research and other uses.
Big Data is changing healthcare, giving doctors new tools to diagnose and treat patients and creating new opportunities for patients to participate in their own health. The report notes the Apple Heart Study, a Stanford and Apple collaboration, is recruiting 400,000 people to study how accurately Apple Watch detects atrial fibrillation. An initiative called Second Opinion, powered by Grand Rounds, lets patients obtain a second opinion from a Stanford physician from the comfort of their home.
Key benefits of AI in healthcare include prediction, personalization, access, reduced costs and better outcomes, according to the report.
"By one estimate, AI could help reduce health care costs by $150 billion by 2026 in the U.S. alone," the report says. "From a business perspective, intelligent computing creates an opportunity for industry players to optimize savings and profitability while still taking advantage of growth."
True democratization is still a ways off, however. Among the biggest hurdles are interoperability and lack of standards for EHR data preparation. "The biggest problem is that our data are not prepared in a way that allows us to even make sense of it," Amy Abernethy, chief medical officer, chief scientific officer & SVP oncology at Flatiron Health, told Stanford Medicine.
Security, privacy and safety also are key as more patient data is stored in EHRs and health systems remain targets of cyberattacks. As more intelligent computing systems come into play in healthcare, the lines also blur around who owns data, adding to confidentiality concerns, according to the report.
That said, the traditional doctor-patient relationship will continue to underpin progress in healthcare and partnerships be built with patient trust in mind. "Patient safety remain at the forefront of industry priorities, for good reason: if protections erode, trust in these medical advances will dissolve, greatly limiting the benefits," the report states.