At opposite ends of the healthcare ecosystem, data is being harnessed to drive a revolution. Below we’ll cover those two points and the impact they are having.
Data standards and interoperability are enabling the patient to become the customer
There are currently a number of technological imbalances in the sector that are being corrected as the industry is turned on its head:
- Data gathering – traditionally the only data gathering in healthcare was conducted when patients visited their doctor or went to hospital, but gradually the proliferation of smart phones with health apps is turning this on its head. It is allowing patients to gather information themselves in real time.
- Health Devices – traditionally the doctors had all the gadgets. They still do when it comes to MRI scanners, x-ray machines and other high-value or specialist equipment, but as smart phone apps start to proliferate into all kinds of niches, this is also beginning to change. Think of any area of medicine or care and there’s probably ‘an app for that’ or indeed a number of them.
- Data access – until recently patients have had significantly less access to information than their clinicians did. The health and social care sector was a supply oriented industry, with clinicians having exclusive access to data and therefore leading the diagnostic and decision-making process. This is also morphing as increasingly well-informed patients with remote access to their own health data are becoming healthcare consumers and the industry is becoming more customer oriented.
Fundamental to all of this are data standards and interoperability, enabling a host of new devices and apps to work together to generate a wealth of new and enriched data. This rich data then enables and inspires a further wave of specialist solutions that can deliver new insights, reduce costs and improve outcomes.
Powerful secure platforms for pooling valuable datasets are providing clinicians, researchers and specialists solution providers with unprecedented capabilities
At the same time, there are limiting factors that might once have restricted what was possible with data in healthcare which are being overcome:
- Almost unlimited storage and processing power – where once pharmaceutical or genomic research might have been bounded by limited computing capabilities, the cloud provides a level of scalability that would once have been unthinkable.
- Big data analytics and AI – what do you do when you have almost unlimited processing power? You ask big questions and solve complex problems. Organisations with massive pharmaceutical or genomic datasets are leveraging this power to run anonymised analytics on an unprecedented scale. At the same time artificial intelligence, far from replacing researchers and clinicians, is assisting them and enabling them to reach quicker and more accurate conclusions.
- Privacy and security – previously organisations may well have recognised the importance of security, but until the recent malware outbreak, they may not have recognised the full extent of the threat. Specialist cloud providers are able to apply a greater level of investment, skills and capability on the security of their infrastructure than their individual clients ever could. Their cloud platforms are not only connected directly to health networks such as N3 and HSCN, but they also provide a secure environment for pooling valuable datasets and making them available on an authorised basis to a vibrant ecosystem of specialist solution providers.
While there are a host of technologies in play here, cloud is the central enabler for them all. The IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are gathering data like never before, are feeding it all into the cloud. It is in the cloud that the data is then securely stored and processed in order to mine it for insights and turn it into intelligence. It is in the cloud that collaboration between a vibrant ecosystem of specialist solution providers can then amplify and enrich this intelligence. And it is from the cloud that this intelligence is then accessed remotely by mobile devices, empowering clinicians, researchers and patients.
The above opinion piece was contributed by UKCloud Health, dinner partners of the techUK Health and Social Care Industry Dinner taking place on Wednesday 15 November. For more information please see the event website.