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Manager Systems Engineering Benelux and Nordics, Industry Lead Healthcare EMEA at EMC.

Why healthcare data should belong in the hands of the patient

Electronic health records (EHRs) must embody an entirely new approach to health and care - one in which the healthcare ecosystem expands far beyond hospital borders.

EHRs are becoming much more than simply a digital version of the paper-based records of the past. Care can be more widely distributed, with the burden shared by an extended ‘family’ of health and care providers; GPs, physiotherapists, pharmacists and home carers at one end, private health clinics and gyms at the other.

The individual is at the centre of an information network, which can be shared in turn with members of this healthcare ‘web’ - given the necessary connectivity. The EHR thus becomes a source of comprehensive and easy-to-view patient information. However, we are not there yet.

The advantages of this approach are many. Primary care givers are provided with an unprecedented view of the person, allowing them to reach more intelligent decisions in shorter timeframes and improve patient outcomes.

Individuals are empowered to be more proactive in their own patient journey, and thus in managing their own health. Examples of this are already coming into fruition; the government’s MyNHS site focuses on personalised and data driven health.

However, after the failed introduction of Care.data to address gaps in information, it is vital that the right steps are taken to educate consumers on the potential benefits and provide the reassurance of data security.

Last year, it was revealed that the information centre for the NHS in the UK, now known as HSCIC, had made "significant lapses" in recording the release of data, meaning that millions of patients' NHS data was sold to private companies.

This included universities and the Department for Health for research purposes, but also technology firms, healthcare consultancies, insurance firms and pharmaceutical giants. With consumers feeling reticent to openly share data, serious work is needed to change this reputation.

With the proliferation of sensors, wearables, wireless health devices, social medial platforms and apps, the focus needs to shift to putting data ownership firmly in the hands of the patient. If a patient is more closely involved in their care, evidence shows they have a better chance of a more successful and quicker outcome, and their demand on services is reduced.

In EMC’s recent white paper, created in partnership with global market intelligence provider IDC, we discuss how patients can monitor daily activities such as exercise and diet – and share results with their healthcare network via their EHR. 

This data can then be shared with the user’s entire healthcare web, enabling health and care providers to more effectively tailor and deliver proactive treatments over the course of that individual’s life.

With the NHS Five Year Forward View clearly outlining that a radical upgrade is needed in prevention and public health, this will not only impact the future health of millions of people, but also the sustainability of the NHS.

In addition, patients will gain far greater control of their own care when they require health services. The typical driver for change in this context is the ownership of data; patient data should belong to the patient and not to institutions, organisations or the government.

 

This article was previously published on The Information Daily.

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