Top 3 Healthcare Data Challenges from Industry Leaders

Thanks to the digital economy, data is now the new gold. In the healthcare and life sciences industries, data is improving the lives of patients and making it efficient for providers to deliver care in novel ways.

A deluge of data, however, comes with its own set of challenges. To get a better understanding of these challenges, we speak with several leaders in the healthcare and life sciences industries to see what issues they’re keeping an eye on.

Interoperability challenges, healthcare data fragmentation, and building trust around consumer data use are some of the themes that come up. Let’s take a deeper look.

Interoperability Challenges

As healthcare goes digital, interoperability issues pop up for organizations looking to update their tech stacks.

Interoperability—the smooth exchange of data among computer systems and software–is especially a challenge for payer organizations, says Minalkumar Patel, CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc. That’s because healthcare data isn’t always available where it’s most needed, Patel says.

“Interoperability is about whether an individual’s data can be at the right place for that person—that person could be me as a patient, could be me as a physician on behalf of a patient, a caregiver, to make whatever decision we need to make.”

Minalkumar Patel

CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc.

Patel adds that interoperability is about making the lives of individual patients better, and less about the exchange of data alone.

“At the end of the day as a physician, I don’t get up thinking about bits and bytes, and AWS and cloud. I think about, ‘how do we make an individual consumer patient member’s life better?’”

Abhijay Datta, Head of Data Engineering and Analytics at Emids, says healthcare has come a long way in terms of electric health records (EHR) adoption. But with a flood of health tech start-ups trying to make an impact on the patient and clinician experience, challenges around integration remain. “For these health tech innovators to succeed, the key is to integrate with their customer’s legacy systems and avoid creating another data and process silo,” he says.

“The big challenge I see for interoperability is how well the industry embraces the innovators through safe, meaningful, standards driven data sharing with them and take the full advantage of digital transformation as witnessed by other industries over the last decade,” he adds.

Healthcare Data Fragmentation

Former Chief Data Strategy Officer at Emids, Nilesh Patil, points out that healthcare data currently does not have a central location where it’s housed, and that is creating barriers for how data can be used. “We need a centralized health data bureau where a patient can share their data and where care providers can use that data,” he says.

Patil adds that payers and providers need to come together for this to happen, with the end goal of making it easier for patients to access their own data.

Bob Darin echoes a similar sentiment.

Darin is the Interim Chief Executive Officer at Blue Health Intelligence. A lack of rules of engagement across the healthcare industry is partly why healthcare data is fragmented, Darin says.

He wants the industry to get down to the semantics of how we define data. “We talk about data, but what exactly is data? Is it images? Is it the clinical encounter? Is it the demographic?” Darin asks. “When you don’t semantically define what it means, it gets really, really difficult because everybody’s defining it by their own rules,” he says.

Building Consumer and Patient Trust

Getting consumers to trust healthcare organizations with data is a key challenge many healthcare leaders think about. Carmen Lux, SVP of Global Delivery at Emids, says the healthcare industry has a way to go before it gains the trust of patients and consumers around data use.

“If we’re not willing to share our data because we don’t know what you’re going to do with it, how are we going to get patients to really help us connect all the data?”

Carmen Lux

SVP of Global Delivery at Emids

Lux points out it’s important for healthcare organizations to be transparent in how they use patient data. It fosters trust, she says.

Patil agrees. “To build trust with patients and consumers, we need to create a data federation where patients can access their data,” he says.

Meanwhile, Datta says many patients today appreciate that their medical records support clinical research and help improve the quality of healthcare. Creating trust with patients, however, involves making their lives easier, he says. “Studies show that patients’ trust in the system increases when they can personally feel the convenience. Since healthcare is a deeply personal relationship between patient and caregiver and the health system, it is imperative for the system to be able to clearly explain concerned patients where their data would be used, and give them the assurance that they are in control of their own data.”

Looking ahead, Darin says healthcare can learn from the consumer-packaged goods industry in how it has garnered trust among consumers. “They have done it by essentially giving customers discounts in return for their data, often through gift cards and loyalty cards,” he says.

Whether that can work in healthcare remains to be seen. But healthcare leaders agree that garnering trust among patients and healthcare consumers is a necessity in this data-driven age.

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