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.
What must be done before you walk out of the office for the last time before the stroke of midnight Jan. 1, 2015? It’s a simple question with many possible responses. Each healthcare organization, based on its needs and priorities likely has a fix what it needs to do, though, perhaps those things are not necessarily what it wants to do. Like people, the final couple weeks of the year are different for everyone and practices are no different.
So, if you’re making a list and checking it twice, here are a few suggestions that you might want to add to it to be well prepared for the new year, based on your practice’s business needs, of course.
Review the ONC Federal Health IT Strategic Plan
At Health Data Consortium, we have three must-do items before we close the door to 2014. First, we urge the health IT community to review the recently released ONC Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020. Public comments are open until February 6, but don’t let your response get lost in the start of the year flurry. Second, we are preparing for the arrival of the 114th Congress and the opportunity to share Health Data Consortium’s public policy platform for 2015. Our platform will have an emphasis on the key issues that affect data accessibility, data sharing and patient privacy – all critical to improving health outcomes and our healthcare system overall. Finally, on January 1 we’ll be only 150 days from Health Datapalooza 2015. We are kicking off the new year and the countdown to Health Datapalooza with keynote speakers and sessions confirmed on a daily basis. We’re already making the necessary preparations to gather the innovators who are igniting the open health data revolution. As 2014 comes to a close, we look forward to hit the ground running in 2015.
Ideally, turn off not only your lights, but everything — I mean every piece of digital technology and every way digital technology can connect to your organization. That is the only way to assure there are no accidents, glitches, failures or breaches. Here are some other things you can do:
• Fill every open position you can. Have positions and people identified and include backups. The only thing worse than not having a position to fill is having one to fill and leaving it open.
• Address mobility, medical devices and patient engagement, and not just from a security perspective — this is everyone who provides access, information or uses these devices or systems.
• Address the culture and have a plan to include every individual in the organization, if the technology touches them, from BYOD to analytics to privacy to cloud storage.
IT, regardless of the industry, is ultimately about people. In healthcare, it is also about the data itself, which represents your patients. It has to be there, it has to work, it has to be secure.
— David Finn, CISA, CISM, CRISC, is a member of ISACA’s Professional Influence and Advocacy Committee, and the Health Information Technology Officer for Symantec
Earlier this year, Mobile Future released an infographic about the current state of digital health. The graphic detailed impressive statistics: Now, more than 247 million Americans have downloaded a health app for their mobile phones and 42 percent of U.S. hospitals utilize digital health technology. These numbers are increasing every day.
These impressive statistics would not been achievable without the liberation of enormous amounts of health data over the last few years, which has help catalyzed a new era of health innovation by giving innovators and entrepreneurs the resources to develop new products and tools to help the everyday consumer make better, more-informed choices about their health. The digital health arena has also become a major economic driver and is on an upward trend with no ceiling in sight. Rock Health reported in April that venture capital funding for digital health in Q1 of 2014 totaled almost $700 million, an increase of 87 percent from Q1 of 2013.
From the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act through Healthcare.gov to newly released Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data, both the demand for and ability to create new products that service consumer needs are at the forefront of investors’ minds. But with new opportunities for innovation also comes new risks and challenges. Along with privacy and security issues regarding the distribution of patient data which has been a hotly discussed public topic the last few months, concerns about storage, access, and sharing are on the minds of data distributors and data users alike.
At the Health Data Consortium (HDC), created as a public-private partnership, has the support of government, nonprofit and private sector organizations who all believe in liberation of health data for the public good. HDC has made a multi-stakeholder commitment to health data, which was reflected in the diversity of constituencies that attended our Health Data Leadership Summit in November last year. This leadership summit resulted in the release of our whitepaper on the multi-stakeholder perspective of health data priorities in the U.S. healthcare system.