With the rise of the ‘quantified self’ movement and the growing popularity of wearable technology, the lines between patient and clinician have blurred. For decades, the medical community has relied on patient data to track and improve health outcomes. However, with the vast majority of healthcare data held within the walls of healthcare providers, there has been a lack of patient ownership over their own health information – which has hindered the progress of medical research.
Now that the tide is shifting and patients are becoming more willing to wear sensors and track their daily activity, sleep, and other metrics, their data can be used to better understand and treat illness. In order to fully realize the benefits of this new data revolution and put the patient at the center of their healthcare, providers must take the following steps.
1. Collect and aggregate patient data
One of the first and most critical steps in the digitization of health is to collect and aggregate patient data into a single location. Data collection within a healthcare setting has been cumbersome and fragmented, with some patients opting out of participating in research studies and others missing out on potentially life-saving medical information because of poor communication between providers.
Creating a single digital repository for patients to store their medical information in will help eliminate the confusion and inefficiencies that come with multiple healthcare providers and incompatible systems. Additionally, the single digital repository will create a more comprehensive picture of the patient’s health status and allow for a greater level of engagement through real-time communication with their healthcare provider.
2. Provide patients with personal health records
Having a digital repository for patients to store their medical information in doesn’t mean healthcare providers will stop providing paper templates for documenting visits. However, providing patients with a digital copy of their personal health records will help eliminate the possibility of medical errors caused by missing or incomplete information. Providing electronic copies of medical documents to patients also serves as a safeguard in the event that sensitive information about the patient is leaked or hacked.
Additionally, providing patients with digital copies of their medical records allows them to take their health information with them wherever they go. This provides an added layer of security as well as the advantage of being able to review their medical information at any time.
3. Use artificial intelligence to reduce medical errors, improve quality of care, and lower costs
Healthcare providers must also ensure that the information they provide is accurate and up-to-date. However, a common problem is that medical professionals rely solely on memory to keep track of and recall patient information. Although having a paper trail is the most obvious solution, relying on memory can cause significant information loss and lead to errors in treatment. Additionally, since the majority of healthcare information is generated during a patient’s encounter with a clinician, the information can quickly become dated.
Artificial intelligence can be used to combat both of these issues. Algorithms that can sift through large amounts of data and accurately interpret what the clinician needs to know can significantly reduce medical errors and increase the quality of patient care. Additionally, employing AI to analyze medical records provides a timelier snapshot of a patient’s health status than what is typically found in more traditional healthcare settings, allowing for more efficient treatment and cost savings.
The use of AI in healthcare is growing, with many AI platforms designed specifically for use within healthcare. For example, AI X‐care (formerly known as AI Cancer – care) is a fully integrated oncology – radiation oncology – hematology – and medical oncology – suite of AI tools designed to streamline the treatment process, reduce human error, and ultimately improve patient care. Additionally, the platform is secure – maintaining the confidentiality of patient information – and offers an easy – and accessible – interface for healthcare providers to enter patient data, enabling them to remain connected to their patients even when they are outside of a healthcare setting.
4. Create patient – consumer health communities
Healthcare providers must also take the time to connect with and educate their patients about the quantified self movement. Since its inception, the quantified self movement has grown in popularity as more people realize the benefits that comes with using data to understand and improve health. A 2018 study from the United Kingdom General Practice (UKGP) found that only 10% of GPs had actively engaged with their patient’s quantified self activities, with 75% expressing an interest in doing so in the future.
Creating patient – consumer communities can help shape the future of healthcare and drive consumers to participate in their own healthcare. For instance, patients can connect with and share their individual health data with other patients who are also participating in the quantified self movement, providing a unique opportunity to find a community of like‐minded individuals and create a support system.
The use of digital technology and the quantified self movement to improve patient outcomes is becoming more common. Healthcare providers who take the time to fully integrate these technologies into their practice will be able to realize the significant benefits they offer.