For healthcare professionals, keeping up with the complexity of modern care is incredibly overwhelming. In 2018 alone, 55 new drugs were approved by the FDA. Providers are dedicated to making the best possible decisions for their patients, but knowing everything is untenable. We are in a time where new treatments and medications are released on a constant basis. Patients are fundamentally unique and respond to these treatments in ways that clinical trials may not anticipate. How can providers stay on top of new information and make the most informed decisions for their patients?
Modern technology provides the capability to personalize healthcare to fit the needs of individual patients. And it’s only going to get better. What’s important about healthcare technology is how we use the data it provides. Enter population health data analytics. With access to population health data analytics, providers would have access to real world applications of treatments.
Let’s look at what a patient’s journey might look like 10 years from now with the use of population health data analytics.
1. Wearable technology monitors patient health.
For several years, providers have taken notice of wearable technology and its potential impact on access to population health data. In 2019, 1 in 3 Americans wore a device such as Fitbit or Apple Watch.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, providers were looking for creative ways to monitor sick patients. Wearable technology emerged as a creative, safe, and innovative way to capture patient data. Wearable technology could be used to:
- Track the progress of the ill patients as they interact with others.
- Identify healthcare providers who have contracted the disease.
- Monitor COVID-19 patients to make better decisions about hospitalization.
Right now, most wearable technology mostly monitors physical activity and heart rate. In the future, these devices might track temperature or blood oxygen levels. This information could tell patients if they need to urgently see a provider and let providers know important information that could impact the patient’s treatment.
2. Genetic testing and genomic profiling are widely used.
Let’s break down the difference between these two terms. Genetic testing typically looks for genetic traits and mutations (like the BRCA-1 gene mutation for breast cancer) which a patient may have inherited. Genomic profiling identifies mutations that have nothing to do with heredity. For example, this might include cancer cells caused by an external factor such as smoke inhalation or sun exposure.
In the future, genetic testing and genomic profiling may be used and cross-referenced against wearable technology data to provide custom treatments for patients.
3. Telehealth is used for initial primary care appointments.
When a patient’s wearable device notices a change in health or if they feel under the weather, they’ll use their smartphone to schedule a telehealth appointment with their doctor. Gone are the days of sitting in waiting rooms for hours for a basic diagnosis. Now, providers will meet with patients over the phone and only meet in-person with patients when necessary.
4. Increased access to health analytics.
Patient information gathered from wearable technology, genetic and genomic testing, and interactions with providers will be gathered, deidentified and used to inform future healthcare decisions. While clinical trials provide critical and important information about the effectiveness and safety of prescription medications, they account for a very small percentage of the people who will ultimately take a drug. With data collected from patients, providers would have a large number or real-world examples showcasing how medications work with different concerns, such as morbidities or allergies.
Additionally, this data could be used to inform how local and state governments inform citizens on healthcare issues and help healthcare providers build interdisciplinary teams to support the health of a community.
5. Improved health outcomes
With greater access to information, we can customize care to reduce readmissions, build public health registries, and cut the cost of healthcare. These advancements will reduce efforts for clinical and administrative staff, support more accurate disease tracking and prevention, and ensure patients are receiving the best possible care.
Data sharing is at the center of this picture. Over the next decade, data sharing and technology have the power to transform how we deliver care. The fundamental tenets of healthcare delivery will still apply, but the adoption of technology will free up time and resources to help providers truly achieve patient-centered care.