The Journal of mHealth Vol 2 Issue 4 (August) - Page 9

Learning from Digital Health Data Learning from Digital Health Data By Keith Nurcombe Keith Nurcombe has worked in healthcare for over twenty years spending the last few years working with businesses in the health and technology space, most recently building O2 Health where he was Managing Director until the end of 2012, since then he has been providing consultancy services to businesses. These days we are collecting levels of health data that eclipse what we have collected in the past. Traditionally, we collected large amounts of patient specific data including conditions, basic personal information as well as centrally controlled data points such as LTC management and public health data. More recently as technology has leapt forward, especially in the wearable’s market, the amount of data that we and our health practitioners can collect has expanded exponentially. We now have data that gives us information about conditions we may have, such as blood pressure and our sugar levels as a diabetic. To that we have added information about how much exercise we are doing, how well we are sleeping, what we are eating and even these days where we are and what we are doing. The connotations of this are almost endless but it does start to produce some really interesting debates about what we can record and what we can really learn from the data. As more and more services become digital and start to engage patients in their healthcare, for me, the debate is now around what we start to uncover about populations and their health that we currently don’t know. So let’s look at some of what we might be able to tell from this data; information that we could have used in the past had we collected it. As an example, let’s start to understand what impact the diabetic patient’s diet has on their condition. We know about their diabetes. The patient knows what they should be eating. But perhaps now we can use technology to help the patient make choices and then record those choices, so that we can see the difference it makes in their condition. Previously, this would have meant a healthcare professional sitting the patient down, hearing what they have done and commenting on what they might do next. Now we have access to datasets that show what the patient ate, where they ate it and when they ate - simply from a smart phone. Seems easy! But the data becomes really powerful if both the patient and healthcare professional have access to it. It allows the conversation to become discussion based, factual and meaningful for both parties. We know that GPs here in the UK are over-worked and dealing with increasing demand from patients, which they are struggling to meet. In the past we might have known how many people called their surgery but that was the extent of the data in terms of unmet need along with large numbers of patients going straight to other services like Accident and Emergency. Imagine now a digital front end that the patient engages with for booking appointments, video consultations with healthcare professionals, accessing self-care. Now at each step of that, we can know what data the patient consumed, how many patients have accessed the service, when, at what time and on what day. This allows the GP surgery to deliver the right services at the right time, for them and for the patient, in a format that suits both. What is also key here is that patients want to be able to access their healthcare services digitally like they do their banking or their online shopping not at the choosing of the healthcare professional. For me, we need to move past some of the patient identifiable information and personal health record issues and really see what the simple data that we can collect can do for the patient, the healthcare professional and also for the system and ultimately the payer. Let’s keep a perspective on what we really want to achieve! n The Journal of mHealth 7