The move toward a patient-centered health care system has been spurred by both health care reform and a revolution in the availability to access health data.

Implications of more control

From the 100,000 health and fitness apps available in iTunes and Google Play stores, allowing consumers to track and manage their health, to telemedicine programs such as Kaiser Permanente’s mid-Atlantic pilot ‘video visit’ service, and on to the national transition to electronic health records (EHRs), health data has started to move from the server rooms into patients’ cell phones.

This health data movement has already yielded advances for both patients and providers. Thanks to innovative technologies and the entrepreneurs behind them, we can now leverage data to improve the quality of health care delivery in ways not previously feasible. We can facilitate cross-clinic coordination through cloud-based services or EHRs, engage patients through every step of their care (via phone or computer) and provide data-sharing platforms that can accelerate research, all while patients can access their own data.

Overcoming obstacles

This seemingly simple concept faces numerous hurdles, due to both technology and regulatory challenges. Fueled by the health data movement, patient-centered care is becoming a reality.

The cultural shift toward data and patient-driven health care has the potential to dramatically improve outcomes. Unnecessary or duplicative testing and procedures can be eliminated. Patients can be targeted for outreach to encourage preventive care, enhance medication adherence, increase nutrition and fitness self-awareness and more.

With the President’s announcement of the Precision Medicine Initiative earlier this year, health data is poised to play an even larger role in the evolution of our health and health care system. Data is the key to unleashing the potential of the human genome and, in turn, personalizing approaches to prevention, treatment and care. There are challenges, no doubt, but the opportunity to change and save lives is greater.

"Thanks to innovative technologies and the entrepreneurs behind them, we can now leverage data to improve the quality of health care delivery in ways not previously feasible."

Many hands

In order to achieve this change, collaboration is needed to continue providing access to health data in meaningful and actionable formats. The Health Data Consortium (HDC) is supporting the health data movement and creating collaboration points through national initiatives, such as the petition for greater consumer access to health data at GetMyHealthData.org.

There is still a need, however, to collaborate with policy makers to address outdated regulations, advocate for innovators and continue engaging with patients and providers as partners in this movement. As data hippies and ambassadors, we must recognize that no movement is powered by a single person or organization; we can only do this together.