Why Health Care Is In Need Of A Killer App

Post written by

Niko Skievaski

Co-Founder and President at Redox, the modern API for healthcare with an integration platform to securely and efficiently exchange data.

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Health care: The last frontier for consumerism. Although at the moment, consumers are a bit removed. Each of us, as patients, has the right to obtain our health data from our various providers. We have the right to combine all the different records and, if we choose, share with family, friends, and future providers. This is bold talk, but the reality is very different.

When we request our data from a health system today, we’re pointed to a provider’s online portal, which offers insights into our experiences with that office. It does not include information from our past or providers in a different system. An astute patient, willing to fill out the appropriate paperwork, may also find themselves with a physical print-out of his or her records or maybe a PDF saved onto a CD. Even then, they rarely include the notes a provider took -- often the most important part of the record. Regardless of the method, it’s ultimately up to the patient to collect the many puzzle pieces from a variety of sources and put it all together.

We’ve spent billions digitizing our information over the past decade, yet the data is practically inaccessible and incompatible. As the journal Health Affairs recently observed: “In the US, many patients now have access to digital health records. However, access is often siloed across different organizations. Despite legislative and regulatory requirements, clinicians still hesitate to share records with patients or other practices. Federal guidance on interoperability has been slow to emerge, although a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) is under development.”

The thing is, patients don’t directly demand their health care data. Rather, they have what economists call "derived demand." Patients directly demand their health and the health of their loved ones. Data can only make this impact if it’s turned into information. And it is software that does this. Applications turn data into information, bringing actionable insights on how to behave differently.

So health care needs a killer app -- the kind of app that brings such value to consumers that it becomes indispensable. Years ago in the finance world, Mint was that app. It captured the attention of consumers and forced the opening up of consumer financial data and, subsequently, the middle layers that all consumer financial apps sit on today. Where’s health care’s killer app? We’re stuck in a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation at the moment. At the moment, the inaccessibility of your clinical data destroys any feasibility of brining a useful consumer health app to market.

What Kind Of Consumer Health Apps Should We Expect? 

Our medical data is surprisingly valuable. It’s said that the black market price for a medical record is far higher than that of a consumer’s social security number or credit card number. Right now, health care organizations de-identify patient data and sell it to pharma companies. Why should they be compensated for providing your data while you stand empty-handed? If patients could access and unify their data, a platform could exist to match patients with those seeking data -- researchers and the like. This health record bank could facilitate the authorization of use of the data and transfer compensation accordingly.

Additionally, consumers might be able to query a service to find opportunities with researchers and clinical trials. The service can facilitate the data exchange and or connection between patient and researchers. This would be less costly and time-consuming than the conventional process. Traditionally, there’s some kind of outreach to the general population. Respondents have to go for an exam and take a blood test to make sure they meet the requirements of a study. But with patients controlling their medical records, research organizations using the service can know immediately who are the best candidates.

Another app might help people constantly monitor and adjust their lifestyle to increase the likelihood of a longer and better quality of life -- far beyond the health trackers that are popular today. Future apps could pull your health data from everywhere it has ever been and put it in one place, along with any data from your wearable sensors or smart devices. Using existing statistical models, a person could estimate how specific lifestyle experiences and choices might impact life expectancy.

The Quantified Self movement has experienced impressive growth since its start in 2007. There’s clearly widespread interest from millions of people who want to monitor and adjust activity. But if we take the basic information from wearables and connect it to data infrastructures that contain our full health history and a trove of the latest commonly recognized medical best practices, then we have an app with a far greater purpose -- one that can have an impact on our life expectancy.

Apple Trees In Our Field Of Dreams?

Apple seems to be on a mission to connect its Health Kit to as many providers' systems as possible. If the data is in Health Kit, developers can create an app that will work with an increasingly larger set of medical records. The groundwork for health care's killer app is being laid. If something gains traction, the Android ecosystem will have to follow suit (although from a step behind). As developers from both communities begin producing apps, more data will be freed from silos and flow to patients. At some point, consumers' expectations about health data will shift and we will only seek out doctors on the network. When health systems realize their current and future economic prospects hinge on making data available, they will urgently move to adapt their cultural and technological status quo.

These apps and many more will come to life with the emergence of patient-authorized data exchange. It will require significant technology and cultural changes by those currently in the health care business. But it’s only a matter of time before consumers seize similar power with their health care. That is the right side of history. Consumers, with self-interest and a sovereign choice, will completely transform health care as we know it.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?
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Getty
Health care: The last frontier for consumerism. Although at the moment, consumers are a bit removed. Each of us, as patients, has the right to obtain our health data from our various providers. We have the right to combine all the different records and, if we choose, share with family, friends, and future providers. This is bold talk, but the reality is very different.

When we request our data from a health system today, we’re pointed to a provider’s online portal, which offers insights into our experiences with that office. It does not include information from our past or providers in a different system. An astute patient, willing to fill out the appropriate paperwork, may also find themselves with a physical print-out of his or her records or maybe a PDF saved onto a CD. Even then, they rarely include the notes a provider took -- often the most important part of the record. Regardless of the method, it’s ultimately up to the patient to collect the many puzzle pieces from a variety of sources and put it all together.

We’ve spent billions digitizing our information over the past decade, yet the data is practically inaccessible and incompatible. As the journal Health Affairs recently observed: “In the US, many patients now have access to digital health records. However, access is often siloed across different organizations. Despite legislative and regulatory requirements, clinicians still hesitate to share records with patients or other practices. Federal guidance on interoperability has been slow to emerge, although a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) is under development.”

The thing is, patients don’t directly demand their health care data. Rather, they have what economists call "derived demand." Patients directly demand their health and the health of their loved ones. Data can only make this impact if it’s turned into information. And it is software that does this. Applications turn data into information, bringing actionable insights on how to behave differently.

So health care needs a killer app -- the kind of app that brings such value to consumers that it becomes indispensable. Years ago in the finance world, Mint was that app. It captured the attention of consumers and forced the opening up of consumer financial data and, subsequently, the middle layers that all consumer financial apps sit on today. Where’s health care’s killer app? We’re stuck in a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation at the moment. At the moment, the inaccessibility of your clinical data destroys any feasibility of brining a useful consumer health app to market.

What Kind Of Consumer Health Apps Should We Expect? 

Our medical data is surprisingly valuable. It’s said that the black market price for a medical record is far higher than that of a consumer’s social security number or credit card number. Right now, health care organizations de-identify patient data and sell it to pharma companies. Why should they be compensated for providing your data while you stand empty-handed? If patients could access and unify their data, a platform could exist to match patients with those seeking data -- researchers and the like. This health record bank could facilitate the authorization of use of the data and transfer compensation accordingly.

Additionally, consumers might be able to query a service to find opportunities with researchers and clinical trials. The service can facilitate the data exchange and or connection between patient and researchers. This would be less costly and time-consuming than the conventional process. Traditionally, there’s some kind of outreach to the general population. Respondents have to go for an exam and take a blood test to make sure they meet the requirements of a study. But with patients controlling their medical records, research organizations using the service can know immediately who are the best candidates.

Another app might help people constantly monitor and adjust their lifestyle to increase the likelihood of a longer and better quality of life -- far beyond the health trackers that are popular today. Future apps could pull your health data from everywhere it has ever been and put it in one place, along with any data from your wearable sensors or smart devices. Using existing statistical models, a person could estimate how specific lifestyle experiences and choices might impact life expectancy.

The Quantified Self movement has experienced impressive growth since its start in 2007. There’s clearly widespread interest from millions of people who want to monitor and adjust activity. But if we take the basic information from wearables and connect it to data infrastructures that contain our full health history and a trove of the latest commonly recognized medical best practices, then we have an app with a far greater purpose -- one that can have an impact on our life expectancy.

Apple Trees In Our Field Of Dreams?

Apple seems to be on a mission to connect its Health Kit to as many providers' systems as possible. If the data is in Health Kit, developers can create an app that will work with an increasingly larger set of medical records. The groundwork for health care's killer app is being laid. If something gains traction, the Android ecosystem will have to follow suit (although from a step behind). As developers from both communities begin producing apps, more data will be freed from silos and flow to patients. At some point, consumers' expectations about health data will shift and we will only seek out doctors on the network. When health systems realize their current and future economic prospects hinge on making data available, they will urgently move to adapt their cultural and technological status quo.

These apps and many more will come to life with the emergence of patient-authorized data exchange. It will require significant technology and cultural changes by those currently in the health care business. But it’s only a matter of time before consumers seize similar power with their health care. That is the right side of history. Consumers, with self-interest and a sovereign choice, will completely transform health care as we know it.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

Co-Founder and President at Redox, the modern API for healthcare with an integration platform to securely and efficiently exchange data...

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Find out if you qualify at forbestech...