To start with, when patients are empowered, so are their physicians, and vice versa. With the advent of electronic health records more than ten years ago, technology has advanced at a rapid rate to include personal health records controlled and updated by patients– and a host of apps, whereby physicians can gain additional data on their patients outside of a clinical setting. This is particularly useful in caring for patients with chronic diseases who require daily monitoring.
In 2011, the U.S. established a federal incentive program to encourage healthcare providers to adopt electronic health records, and establish a secure way for patients to email their physicians.
I remember being so thrilled that I could email my physician. I could ask her to refill a prescription, make an appointment, and send her my data, all online. It was a whole new world, and it drew me in and made me want to participate in my own healthcare that much more. This is a small example of what lies ahead. Patients are building a vast body of data collected on the growing number of health apps. Physicians are equally excited that their patients – prompted by these apps and devices – are improving their health.
But with each improvement comes complications for physicians and healthcare providers. There are valid fears to contend with: will the records be used against them in medical malpractice lawsuits? Privacy breaches are all too common, and sometimes unavoidable. Physicians feel vulnerable. And, last but not least, there is the disruption in workflow that doctors must face. But data is the key to change, and unfortunately it must be entered electronically to be usable. Many of these growing pains are disappearing as big data in healthcare is gathered to improve care. Healthcare is desperately trying to catch up to other industries, like the financial world, for example, that have been using and exchanging data for far longer.