The healthcare industry is slowly moving through the data revolution. It has begun to take baby steps towards the impact that many know data will have on the industry, but it has some way to go before it realizes the full potential.
The future of a more data-driven healthcare system is often hard to quantify, so we decided to take you through a hypothetical, but entirely possible, patient journey through a data-driven healthcare system.
In a data-driven healthcare future, there are likely to be a larger number of people with wearable technologies that help to show the stats of a patient to make sure they are staying healthy. At present, we are seeing an increasing number of people wearing things like fitness trackers and smart watches which are already starting on this process. The popularity of these devices is growing fast, with the US alone spending $1.46 billion on them in 2015, up from $692 million in 2014.
However, in the future, these will not simply track your movement and heart rate. They will look at everything from blood sugar levels, hydration, and potentially hormones in your body. When this data is changed from base readings, your doctor will be informed automatically and an appointment will be booked to investigate whether this is an anomalous reading or if there is an issue.
Once a patient comes in for a diagnosis, the doctor will be able to investigate their entire genome to look at not only what's in front of them, but also at the potential issues that are common with specific genomic variations. We are seeing the start of this kind of sequencing today, with IBM leading the way when they announced Watson Genomic Analytics, which will look at variations in thousands of human genomes.
With access to this kind of data, a doctor will be able to quickly and easily see which diseases the patient may be particularly susceptible to, genomic variations that may explain symptoms or simply what others with a similar genome makeup have suffered from in the past.
Combined with this, the doctor will be able to see the natural variations within a patient's day-to-day life through the data from the wearable device that alerted them to the danger in the first place. It will allow them to understand whether this is perhaps something that is serious or if it sits within the patient's natural fluctuations.
With this data to hand, a doctor will have significantly better chances to give a thorough and accurate diagnosis. In the US alone there are around 12 million misdiagnoses every year, some with deadly consequences. By having access to a huge amount of data, doctors in the future could potentially cut this number considerably.
Using similar methods to the diagnosis stage, doctors will have the opportunity to see the detailed medical history and genomic makeup of a patient, helping them to identify the best course of treatment. Every person will have a slightly different reaction to a treatment and through the data produced with genomic sequencing it will be possible to see which is going to work best for the individual.
The drugs used will also be considerably more effective as drug companies will have also used this information to create drugs to work best for specific genome makeups. Rather than creating a drug that will work adequately across large sections of the population, it will instead have identified how to vary drug makeup to work well on specific sectors of the population.
Rather than needing to recover in a hospital bed, patients in a data-driven healthcare system will be able to wear IoT-enabled devices to feed data back to their doctors from home. It will give patients a more comfortable recovery environment while allowing doctors to remotely monitor many more patients than they would be able to in a traditional hospital environment. This will be similar to the devices currently being used in the collaboration between Parkinson’s charity the Michael J Fox foundation and Intel, where data about Parkinson's disease sufferers is uploaded to the cloud and analyzed in a natural environment.
The connected devices being used to monitor the patient will have looked at the patient history and created customized thresholds on key metrics. If a patient goes above or below these a doctor will be automatically notified of an issue and can then take action. This will not require any kind of input from either patient or doctor, instead, data will be communicated in real-time from sensors on the patient through to the doctor.
Once initial recovery is complete, a doctor will then be able to monitor healing through a wearable device in a home environment, saving on hospital beds whilst still making sure that every patient has effective and safe monitoring.