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Managing Data in a Connected Healthcare World

By Terry Edwards, CEO and Founder, PerfectServe, WLSA Member

We’re entering a new era of connected healthcare, where an increasing number of innovative monitoring devices will be collecting critical patient medical information, like glucose levels, weight, and blood pressure, as well as other important lifestyle factors, like nutrition, activity level, and even social engagement. Advanced technologies will be employed to communicate this information to clinicians – often times via smartphones and other mobile devices – presenting a fuller picture of their patient’s health and enabling them to make better, more efficient care decisions.

For example, a care team might closely monitor select data points for a patient with diabetes and, perhaps detecting very gradual weight gain and slowly rising glucose levels, could deduce that the patient’s care plan is no longer effective. This kind of ongoing health monitoring enables to them to then intervene proactively, adjusting that patient’s care plan to be more effective.

This kind of connected healthcare provides great promise and can help move the industry forward to true population health. But there are two important factors to consider in collecting and disseminating this information:

  1. Avoid the tidal wave. New devices, wearables, and other technologies are generating tons of patient data—and the volume of this data will only increase over time. This information can be so important to developing new treatments, improving care plans, and much more. However, we need systems that enable workflow processes so this data can be made useful. Without the right workflows, care teams would be overloaded by a tidal wave of information. Too much information can be overwhelming and impossible for care teams to sort through.Instead, healthcare organizations must find ways to present the information to align with new clinician workflows. Organizations should seek out tools that allow clinicians to determine how they should best receive certain types of information based on its context and criticality. For example, a clinician may want to view a patients’ weight information on a weekly-basis via a mobile application dashboard, but may prefer an immediate text message or phone call if a patient’s glucose level spikes. Empowering clinicians to make those choices can improve their workflow and turn all of those data points into useable information.
  2. Ensure patient privacy and security. Healthcare providers are entrusted with protected patient health information and have a strict responsibility to keep it secure and private. Data breaches can result in large HIPAA penalties, and even more importantly, can erode patient trust. As technological advancements open the door to even more patient data, it becomes that much more critical for providers to ensure that all information is secure. If patients lose trust in their healthcare providers, they may avoid seeking important healthcare services.

Connected healthcare has the capacity to completely transform the way we deliver patient care – we’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of newly-evolving technologies and capabilities, but instead healthcare organizations must take a step back and think carefully about how to implement new programs and technologies. By developing roll-out plans that prepare for any potential consequences, healthcare organizations will be able to capitalize on the best parts of connected healthcare without overwhelming clinicians or putting patient information at risk.