Missed opportunities: Making personal data matter
A friend’s recent healthcare experience reinforced why I came to work for Validic and believe so strongly in its mission to improve the quality of life by making personal data actionable.
My friend has high cholesterol, anxiety, and a family history of coronary artery disease and diabetes. For some time, she had noticed an increase in headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, confusion, and fatigue. She began taking her blood pressure with an over-the-counter blood pressure cuff and was alarmed to notice almost all of her readings fell into the “elevated” category and many more fell into the hypertension stage 1 and stage 2 categories. She took readings daily for several weeks and decided to contact her doctor. At this point, she was worried, not only about the readings from her cuff but also about the headaches, tinnitus and fatigue, which seemed to be worsening.
On the day of her doctor’s appointment, her blood pressure reading in the office was normal. The nurse practitioner told her to go home, continue taking readings, write them down on a piece of paper, and come back in a month with her cuff so they could compare readings to the office blood pressure cuff. Needless to say, this left my friend frustrated and disappointed and did not alleviate the worry she felt about what was happening to her.
Most population health initiatives don’t yet improve population health
In healthcare, we talk a lot about preventive care, chronic condition management and “going upstream” to get ahead of acute, adverse events. It’s better to tackle the risk factors and early warning signs of heart disease, rather than treat a heart attack or stroke and all the complications that go with them. Better for patients in terms of health and quality of life. And better financially, for patients and families, as well as the healthcare system as a whole.
At a macro level, this is called population health management. At the individual level, it’s personalized care. The strategy involves finding the people who need help and who are at the highest risk of chronic disease and adverse outcomes. Apply some intervention and develop a coordinated care plan. Engage people appropriately to ensure they become active participants in their health and well-being.
This is a generalized description. In practice, it’s much more complicated and nuanced, with many factors impacting success. However, despite this focus on “getting upstream,” we haven’t made much progress in the quest to improve health outcomes, lower mortality rates and relieve the crushing financial burden of healthcare expenditures.
The data conundrum
Part of the challenge involves patient data – access to enough data to present a complete health picture and a way to curate and interpret the data to make informed decisions. Healthcare providers have data within the electronic health record (EHR). But it’s data that captures a moment in time (an office visit or a diagnostic procedure) and only within that particular practice or health system.
That’s where health insurance claims data comes in and why population health management initiatives have tried to combine access to claims and clinical data to provide a more complete picture of health. However, claims data is also limited in that it is retrospective (often more than three months old) and doesn’t provide much opportunity to get ahead of problems before they occur or monitor in real-time how a patient responds to a treatment plan or medication. Like EHR data, claims data still only captures that moment in time. Claims give healthcare providers more information about the use of healthcare services that occur outside of that particular health system; however, claims plus clinical data still don’t provide a complete health picture.
Making personal health data matter
Researchers estimate that social determinants of health (SDoH) drive more than 80-90 percent of health outcomes. Medical care alone can’t improve health, as it is estimated to account for only 10-20 percent of factors that impact health status. SDoH broadly refers to health-related behaviors, socioeconomic factors and environmental factors.
Not only do SDoH drive the majority of health outcomes and are most critical to getting ahead of more serious health-related events, but they also tend to be the most challenging for which to acquire data.
The industry is making progress, with many population health vendors offering access to third-party, publicly available SDoH data sources such as LexisNexis and some have even begun integrating patient-level SDoH data on a limited basis. However, this falls far short of the ideal “complete patient data” required to truly improve health and do so for entire populations of people. For real population health improvement, you need the data that matters most – the personal data generated every day from the behaviors, activities and routine tasks in which people engage.
Improving health means knowing what happens every day
This is where Validic is making a difference.
Since 2012, we noticed there were thousands of personal health applications and devices collecting the data most needed for successful preventive care and population health management, but the data wasn’t going anywhere. So we built the world’s largest health IoT platform to make this personally generated health data part of the healthcare system and efforts to improve health and well-being. And because we recognized that healthcare providers need access to this data within the context of the healthcare delivery system, we built the infrastructure and front-end applications required to deliver this data directly into the clinical workflow.
To circle back to my story at the beginning of this blog, Validic’s technology allows us to eliminate encounters like the one my friend experienced. If her healthcare provider was a Validic partner, my friend could instantly share her blood pressure readings with her doctor. Her bluetooth-enabled cuff could transmit data via an application installed on her mobile phone directly into her provider’s EHR. This would happen automatically every time she takes a reading – no input required, no need to open the mobile application, data transmitted in the background.
Her healthcare team would see the data within her EHR patient record. They would know in near-real-time what’s happening with her. If something looks concerning, they could contact her, ask her questions and have her come into the office if needed. They could respond earlier, prescribe treatment, monitor her readings and actively engage her in her health and well-being. And having this data available and usable within the clinical workflow means care teams can deliver this kind of personalized care to every patient when they need it.
It is this kind of insight into what happens with people during their daily lives that matters the most to real health improvement. It’s not enough to evaluate data and information during sporadic encounters, most of which only happen because something has progressed to the point of being a problem — for example, elevated blood pressure is not diagnosed until it becomes stage 2 hypertension.
At Validic, we believe that personal health data will transform how we diagnose and treat disease, care for people in any setting and provide personalized care. If you are interested in learning more about our mission and work, please visit Validic.com or send us a note at email@example.com