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March 09, 2016
The Power of Patient Data
By: Jeff Elton Ph.D.

Highlights from a panel session moderated by Jeff Elton at the 13th MIT Sloan Healthcare & Bioinnovations Conference.

It was my great pleasure to attend the 13th MIT Sloan Healthcare & Bioinnovations Conference at the end of February. This conference brings together a wealth of industry, academic and policy leaders to discuss the most pressing issues and exciting innovations in the healthcare sector. The theme of this year’s conference was “Strategic Analytics: Changing the Future of Healthcare” and sessions highlighted the many ways analytics are used across the entire healthcare value chain.

With the latest trends in collecting and studying enormous amounts of healthcare data, analytics is growing immensely in the industry, from research to payer-provider networks to project management at pharmaceutical companies. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to moderate a panel on “The Power of Patient Data.” The purpose of the panel was to bring leaders in the industry together to explore the potential impact and challenges of using all this data to improve patient outcomes, the benefits and risks to empowering patients, as well as the ethical and legal issues that will inevitably arise as patient data becomes more available and accessible.

Joining me on the panel were:

  • Jason Robart, Chief Strategy Officer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and President and CEO of Zaffre Investments

  • Dr. Tim Ferris, Medical Director of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, Vice President of Population Health Management at Partners HealthCare

  • Dr. Paul Wallace, Chief Medical Officer, Optum Labs

  • Jessica Sweeney-Platt, Executive Director Physician Performance Research, athenaResearch

The power of analytics in patient health has enabled people to become more invested in their own health. Transparency of healthcare options and access to their own health data empowers and incentivizes patients to make individualized decisions regarding their health. The increasing presence of EHR, EMR, and personal medical devices and apps is changing the healthcare industry, shifting the focus toward preventative, personalized and precision health.

During the session we discussed how health data—EMR and claims-derived data, and data from wearables and social media—has advanced tremendously in the very recent years and how it’s now being actively used and integrated into care management processes. Panel members reported seeing the benefits of this data being available, as well as the limitations posed by “siloed” sources, lack of easy-to-deploy collaborative models and legal frameworks that are early and not necessarily conducive to new care coordination and management approaches.

Panel members recognized that there is a strong commitment from all corners of healthcare—health provider systems, payers, health services companies, venture firms and entrepreneurs—to push forward with what is right for patients and what will deliver the most value for the healthcare system. Progress will require ongoing and frequent interactions with policy makers, agencies and others responsible for developing new policies and their enforcement. But it will also require pragmatic solutions that benefit patients. Patients themselves will play a valuable role in this process as they require or demand the use of data generated through clinical activities and other activities under their direct control, such as wearables and personal health monitors.

Increasingly healthcare and health management will move outside of the formal health facilities of today, into the homes and workplaces of patients and consumers. In fact, the panel did not anticipate an increase in formal healthcare facilities, especially for acute care, in the foreseeable future. Instead, this will require remote coordination, management, patient activation and new self-management capabilities at a regional or even national scale. While this remains early days, it was seen as a priority for each of the panel members’ organizations.

Fundamentally, the panel was very positive about what the future holds for the quality, accessibility and value to be delivered by data, analytics and remotely-enabled care.

As always, this was a fantastic conference with numerous opportunities to engage in discussions with industry leaders who are embracing analytics to advance the future of healthcare. My thanks to the organizers and other attendees.

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