The U.S. healthcare system is under more strain than ever, a situation that is only going to worsen unless steps are taken to address it. The overall population continues to grow, but percentage of Americans older than 65 is growing faster and by 2030, the number of Americans over 65 will be greater than the number of children. Older people visit doctors more often than any other age grouping, and when combined with an already prevalent physician shortage, this growth in healthcare needs will create a significant problem for the healthcare community if the burden on providers isn’t reduced.
Healthcare decisions are based on data. Traditionally, that data has been gleaned from in-person physician visits requiring manual entry into patient records to ensure completeness of patient histories. Technology, however, has created a wealth of Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD) that can be more easily collected, shared, and made accessible to physicians in order to drive better and faster healthcare decisions.
PGHD is health-related data produced by patients and either automatically recorded and delivered into connected health systems or manually entered by patients using digital patient portals and EHRs. This can include data from mobile health apps, wearables and other Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices, as well as health histories and other relevant information, all used to build a holistic view of patients’ health and needs.
Shifting the Burden of Care
PGHD can increase patient awareness about their own health and help them feel more empowered as positive contributors to their own needs. The ongoing collection of PGHD creates regular engagement with providers and increases the amount of data available for making informed decisions. Patients have shown a desire to become more active in their own care and believe access to more information helps them become better engaged with their providers and increases their understanding of self-care options, ultimately driving them to become more involved in their healthcare decisions.
Maximizing Physicians’ Time
PGHD allows doctors to operate more efficiently. By giving patients the ability to provide data regularly using technology, patients can avoid office visits to take those readings, saving time and costs for themselves and their providers. It also gives physicians more time to see patients that do require office visits. In addition, collecting PGHD helps physicians better prepare for office visits and reduces the time required for in-person interactions by allowing them to focus on results and treatment, rather than recording and entering data.
Better Health Outcomes
Because PGHD delivers more data to providers between office visits, physicians are able to have a better view of patients’ conditions, adherence, response to treatment, trends, and overall health. It also means irregularities or negative indicators can be spotted earlier and physicians may be able to adjust treatment or have patients schedule immediate office visits for further evaluation. The ability to intervene sooner can increase physicians’ ability to effectively treat conditions before they worsen, potentially avoiding complications or hospitalization. By providing greater insight into patients’ health trends, PGDH can help doctors create more individualized treatment plans, rather than relying on generic data.
Improving AI in Healthcare
As the volume of PGHD grows and is added to aggregate databases, AI engines will be able to deliver increasingly more accurate analytics. The results may help more effectively identify at-risk patients, suggest personalized treatment options, and uncover trends in patient populations that could help improve overall health for individuals and groups of patients.
PGHD will provide high volumes of data for Precision Health programs, which seek to shift healthcare to a proactive healthcare model based on individual characteristics, including health data, social data, geography, genetics, and other variables. The intent is to use data to use all available information to predict which treatments, including preventative care programs, will be most effective for individual patients.
Doctors have always had one primary job: To care for their patients. Over the years, though, it has become a burdensome role with ancillary tasks that has created stress, overwork, and burnout, making it harder for them to perform their roles to the best of their ability. Connected health systems and the use of PGHD, however, have the potential to eliminate many of the tasks pull doctors away from their core competencies, allowing them to focus on their patients and hopefully delivering better results, while reducing their workload in the process.
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