Not yet anyway. So...what's it going to take?
I recently read an insightful and thoughtful review written by Leonard Kish about Eric Topol's latest book, 'The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands.'
In it, he summarises several of the key objectives and takeaways of the book and got me thinking about what it will take to see the benefits of peer to peer medicine, intelligent networks, a redefining of the patient-clinician relationship and, of course, the revamping of medical education to integrate technology. Quite frankly, we are still a long way off but there's much we can do to make it happen in 10 years rather than 50 years.
1. Data Security
This is a commonly cited barrier to health information exchange and it matters. We want to make sure patients have access to their data and we want them to be engaged in their own care and wellbeing. However, doing so means they need to have faith that the myriad of interconnected IT systems are operating in a standardised and secure manner. In order for information networks to work, they need to be robust without being obstructive.
2. Data Quality
We know the data is secure but is it of any value? Is it accurate, accessible and informative? This is going to be a real challenge. Both patients and clinicians need to work together with IT vendors to define what needs to be collected that's informative for all the stakeholders involved. You can't redistribute the clinician - patient relationship if what everyone is now collecting makes no sense. This is a particular danger for patients.
3. Data Sources
There is an increasing obsession with medical devices for remote monitoring and data sharing. With so many vendors entering the market attempting to differentiate themselves from one another, we risk the wanton destruction of data simply by collecting too much of it. This would create too much noise for both clinicians and patients to filter and actually negatively impact clinical care. Open health movements and patient centered care only work with access to the right data—not just being given volumes of it.
4. Engaged Stakeholders
Clinicians and patients alike should welcome a more open health information system. However, it needs to prove itself. We need more pilots and projects demonstrating how a more democratic information system can lead to improved clinical outcomes for patients whilst also improving the workflows of clinicians and care providers. We can only do that with more engagement on all sides, including vendors.
I guess it had to come down to this. To achieve any of these objectives will take money and lots of it. From R&D investments by vendors, to government funding for projects, to healthcare provider procurements, and even private funding, there will need to be money changing hands. Even though digital health is often associated with startups, in reality it comes down to dense infrastructure investments which from my experience can create tremendous scaling opportunities but always at a price.
So that's my view. I think Eric Topol, once again, has identified where medicine should aspire to be and where perhaps it's probably heading. It's now time that we turned ambitions into frontline realities.
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