Data is the lifeblood of modern healthcare systems. The collection, sharing and use of data can help widen access, increase trust and satisfaction, and boost efficiency by helping diagnose and treat conditions earlier and with greater accuracy.
Moreover, the integration of high-quality data – held within effective information and analysis systems – is key to dealing with the increased demands being placed upon public health, health systems and care workers. The aging population and the burden of chronic diseases, together with unsustainable cost trajectories and increased staff burnout, these challenges require immediate and decisive action.
But as connected devices and systems proliferate, the reality we must contend with is that health systems around the world are still struggling to organize, analyze and apply health data in a way that maximizes productivity and improved outcomes. The most effective data management strategies are still being debated, with typically narrow standardization and data handling protocols existing between stakeholders.
From my point of view, the priority must be to support patients, health systems, care professionals and governments to make the most sense of their data, not to drown in it! All whilst providing a working infrastructure to manage vital issues like cybersecurity, technology integration and the long-term transition towards systems that deliver better outcomes and experiences at lower cost.
In this spirit, this latest Future Health Index report has conducted interviews with experts, practitioners and opinion leaders from across the healthcare spectrum – people that are making value-based healthcare happen on the ground. These interviews have produced a series of trends that have been validated by the Future Health Index data and its Value Measure. This has resulted in five recommendations that can drive better collection, analysis and use of healthcare data.
Firstly, medical education must be modernized to keep pace with technological advances. For the next generation of healthcare professionals, technologies such as electronic health records (EHRs) and artificial intelligence (AI) should be viewed as essential tools. The second recommendation is that the creation of these solutions is informed by the needs of healthcare professionals and patients, putting an end to top-down implementation. Thirdly, more focus should be placed on proving and explaining the value of new technologies to boost adoption rates.
Next comes the harmonization of data standards. This is achieved through greater integration, with industry, healthcare professionals, governments and policymakers across markets, all pulling in the same direction to achieve this essential goal. And finally, we must get regulation right at the top. This will set an example that groups at all levels of the healthcare continuum can follow to generate their own data codes of practice.
I remain very optimistic about the potential of digital technology, data innovation and new working methods to deliver a far-reaching transformation of healthcare – improving access, experiences and outcomes forever. The insights, technologies and capabilities to drive this change are at our fingertips. But for lasting change, we must navigate the complexities in the way we organize and manage our health systems. I hope this second edition of the FHI 2018 helps to bring clarity and consensus to one of the most demanding issues in modern-day healthcare.
Philips Chief Medical Officer, September 2018