The ability to record, share and make sense of patient-generated data is giving providers and researchers new capabilities. In some ways, a patient’s data can offer more information about specific or unique conditions and circumstances. When pooled, however, patient data uncovers trends and new connections that can allow for better preventative care. This can minimize the costs associated with more complicated treatments by intervening sooner, as well as give a broader snapshot of health for certain demographics, at-risk groups or wider subsets of the population.

Utilizing greater connectivity measures and interoperability efforts that promote collaboration and security are both key in achieving the possibilities offered by rich sets of patient or population data. Here’s why this is so valuable:

Personalized care

Each patient is different, and a well-documented health history with as much information available as possible can make care safer and more targeted. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services found that each year, thousands of patients encounter problems due to adverse drug reactions. This can lead to unforeseen deaths and millions of dollars of expenses for the industry.

Electronic health records that contain pertinent information such as blood type, genetic factors and existing prescriptions can be instrumental in limiting ADRs. Overall, EHRs that contain a wealth of patient data can ultimately give attending doctors great specificity when creating a treatment plan. This gives patients more personalized care and can avoid the risks of a one-size-fits-all approach.

A doctor in a white coat working on a touchscreen tablet.An attending doctor can use a patient’s EHR to make more targeted decisions.

Predictive modeling

As the Wall Street Journal found, providers across the country are turning to preventative care not just as a means of promoting better health outcomes but also in an effort to achieve financial sustainability. Proactive behavior on the part of health professionals and patients can lower the rates of expensive and difficult chronic conditions by addressing risk factors and knowing when to intervene. This is greatly aided by patient data. Even non-medical information like household income, lifestyle factors and other things that differentiate patients can be critical and part of a larger puzzle.

By combining the information from multiple organizations, healthcare providers as well as researchers can begin to a build stronger understanding of how certain behaviors, foods, medications and other factors interact. An emphasis on fluid data exchange and connectivity will only serve to uncover stronger correlations by looping in greater data. The WSJ reported that studies can often conclude that the amount of data is not enough to support claims or possible trends.

Greater coordination

Through improved interoperability of data and connectivity efforts among providers and researchers, the quality and scope of population health can be improved. This can strengthen efforts to uncover the secrets locked inside big data, as well as serve to inform the work of physicians addressing a single patient. Information exchanges and coalitions among networks and healthcare systems may bring about the kind of collaboration that yields better results. Patient data must be protected and kept secure, but also cherished and utilized.