Health Data Literacy Needed to Improve Outcomes

Chris Boone
Chris Boone

Guest post by Chris Boone, CEO, Health Data Consortium.

Consumers are receiving more health data than ever, as evidenced by the myriad mobile apps (WeightWatchers, Mindshift, Nike+ Training Club, etc.) and wearables (FitBit, iWatch, Jawbone, etc.) now available. With health data so pervasive, health literacy has become a commonly discussed issue as it pertains to consumers’ ability to obtain and process healthcare information to make better healthcare decisions. But, with the advent of so much data, there must be a national emphasis on the importance of health data literacy, as well, to empower patients to leverage available data in a meaningful way that can improve their and their loved ones’ health outcomes.

The Health Data Literacy Landscape

There remain challenges to the health data movement – such as privacy concerns – and as a result, questions around how to improve health data literacy remain largely unexplored. The road to health data literacy starts with digital access to health information, and new technologies that seamlessly augment consumers’ daily health practices to enable better health decision-making. Interestingly enough, however, the rate at which health data entrepreneurs and innovators are producing incredible technologies may be exceeding the rate at which consumers are able to digest and use the information.

So, how do we leverage the opportunities provided by greater access to health data without overwhelming the consumer?

Data Visualization and the User Experience

Once data becomes accessible to consumers, data visualization is a key component to ensuring it is understandable and actionable. Consumers must be able to comprehend and digest data to put it to work.

In addition – and like in any other industry – the user experience must be a top priority when building new technologies. We need developers to build mobile apps, wearables, websites, etc. that are simple in design with an emphasis on providing useful and easily actionable data for consumers.

Consumers have already demonstrated better response rates and greater engagement with user-friendly data. Google, for example, is highly successful because of its clean, simple look and feel when compared to its now obsolete competitor, the cluttered search engine Ask Jeeves. To build equally sustainable health data technologies that truly serve consumers, developers will need to keep it simple.

Several tech companies are starting to recognize the importance of simplistic data visualization and its impact on health data literacy. With the recent launch of Apple HealthKit, consumers now have access via a mobile app to an easy-to-read dashboard of health and fitness data that work together to comprehensively track overall, personal health. The app is specifically designed to house and display many data points – sleep quality, fitness activity, nutrition, etc. – in one place with clean designs for easy management. Apple is not only joining the health data movement, but entering it from the perspective of a consumer products leader with a long history of making user-friendly tools.

Health Data Consortium’s (HDC) focus is to put the patient at the center of healthcare, and to do so by creating and supporting an environment where companies can build valuable technologies that improve health data literacy among consumers. To make this a reality, it is essential to support the budding cultural movement around health data, and subsequently, health data literacy.

The annual Health Datapalooza, a national conference hosted by HDC, advances the health data movement by addressing key issues around health data accessibility and use. Together, we can address challenges like health data literacy and advance the health data movement.

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