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The digital revolution is here, and with it comes nearly instantaneous access to volumes of information unprecedented in human history. And that has fundamentally altered the way humans live their lives, shaping the ways we work, learn, and even entertain ourselves.
But perhaps nowhere is the digital revolution felt more acutely than in the domain of healthcare. Big Data has not only revolutionized patient care, but it has refashioned the patient experience, promoting patient autonomy through the power of information.
This article examines the role of data in optimizing evidence-based patient care and in fostering patient empowerment.
Perhaps the most significant contribution of data to patient care and empowerment is in data’s capacity to inform effective decision-making. For instance, Big Data is an incredibly potent tool not only for speeding diagnoses and ensuring their accuracy but also for devising the most effective treatment protocols and overall disease management strategies.
This is due to the simple fact that in mere minutes, computer algorithms can parse more data than humans would be able to analyze in a lifetime. And that means that when healthcare providers and their patients begin to devise therapeutic regimens, they do so armed with the most comprehensive and highest quality information possible.
Data analytics are also important for both risk and cost assessments. Data analytics, for example, can enable care providers to recommend a range of treatment options to support both safety and affordability. In addition, data analytics are increasingly used by patients and their healthcare teams to secure coverage for treatment protocols not traditionally covered by private insurers, Medicare, or Medicaid. The capacity to prove through data the efficacy and cost-efficiency of a therapeutic regime can be a powerful tool for supporting patient-driven care.
The Rise of the Patient Portal
In addition to the use of Big Data to facilitate diagnosis and informed health decision-making, the digitization of patient records has also enabled patients to enjoy easier access to their personal health information. Through password-protected patient portals, patients can retrieve their own medical records, securely share them with other healthcare and service providers as they choose, and access health data they may need to take control over their own health.
For example, patients researching disease management strategies may pull their latest blood counts from their patient portal to determine if new drug therapy is right for them. In addition to ease of access to their own charts, the digitization of healthcare is also being leveraged to support transparency in the health system. This includes new regulations to require healthcare providers, clinics, and hospitals to post pricing information for procedures, in-patient and out-patient care, medications, and other expenses.
This empowers patients to determine where to seek medical care, while also helping to drive overall costs of treatment down, as healthcare providers seek to remain competitive both in terms of quality of care and cost of services.
Data is also key to patient empowerment insofar as it affects the quality of the doctor/patient relationship, helping to overcome power imbalances between the patient and the expert. As patients become increasingly informed about their health, the better equipped they are to engage with their healthcare team and to drive the decision-making regarding their own medical care.
Data truly drives the world as we know it today, but perhaps its most significant utility is in the arena of healthcare. Medical decisions are among the most intimate and important decisions a person can face. Through data, patients are more empowered than ever to make the informed choices that are right for them.