Press Review: Digital Health At The Cost Of Your Privacy & Why EHR Went Wrong

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Two articles which caused a stir in the media over the past several weeks. One is a story about how healthcare digitisation is a mess in the US despite $36 billion being invested into it, the other one is about how digital solutions improve our health while invading our privacy.

Newsweek: Personalized Health Care and Artificial Intelligence Could Improve Your Life – at the Cost of Your Privacy

If you think Facebook and Google invaded your privacy, imagine what hackers could do with a minute-to-minute log of your disease symptoms, behaviors, locations and even your appearance and conversations.

30 years ago, Andreas Rubiano was diagnosed with hypertension. As per usual, the doctor prescribed some medication and told him to change his lifestyle, exercise more and ingest less salt. Andreas was not really keen on following the doctor’s orders though. With every visit, the doctor ordered the same things, and Andreas stuck to his habits. 4 years ago, Andreas took part in the trial of a digital health care programme. Every day, he had to measure his blood pressure, and the results were sent to a team of doctors at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. An Apple smart watch was used to monitor his physical activity, text messages reminded him to take his medication, and he received e-mails with tips on how to reduce the amount of salt in his food and how to make changes in his life style. He now regularly takes his meds, goes to the gym three times a week and eats healthy. His blood pressure has dropped from 150/100 to 130/78.

This model of health care is the future. Collecting data in real time enables patients to receive up-to-date information on how to manage chronic illnesses. This is similar to how Facebook and Google operate in the field of social media and search engines. Chronic illnesses cannot be cured and are with us until we die, but they can be controlled. This includes many modern killers such as heart and circulatory system diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The more data we collect, the more effective preventive measures and health care quality becomes. The cost of all this is gradual loss of our privacy. Nowadays we are shocked whenever we hear about data leaks from Facebook or Google. But what is going to happen when cyberthieves steal data about our mental illness and threaten to disclose it to our employer? Is effective, personalised preventive medicine worth giving up on small everyday pleasures such as a lazy night in instead of a jog or having a greasy stake instead of a low-calorie salad? Health measurement devices available on the market such as wristbands, watches and smartphones are becoming increasingly advanced. Which data should be analysed and which should only be available to the patient? Questions like that are numerous.

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Fortune: Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong

The U.S. government claimed that turning American medical charts into electronic records would make health care better, safer, and cheaper. Ten years and $36 billion later, the system is an unholy mess.

The US government used to claim that converting paper medical records into electronic form would make the health care system more effective, safer and cheaper. Ten years and 36 billion dollars later, the e-health care system has become the bane of every doctor’s existence. What went wrong during the digital revolution? Fortune and Kaiser Health News have conducted an analysis of the issue and published their findings in the form of a full-length article.

The promised savings and patient empowerment never became reality, just like the free exchange of information or the use of Big Data for scientific purposes. 10 years after Barack Obama signed off on accelerating the implementation of digital medical records, America has no success to boast about. Conversations with more than 100 doctors, patients, IT experts and administrators, health care policy pundits, lawyers, high-ranking government officials and EHR service suppliers reveal the truth about squandered opportunities: instead of an ecosystem of electronically-collected data, patient records are like scattered puzzle pieces which do not fit together. Currently, 96% of all hospitals have already implemented electronic medical records systems, which, at first glance, appears to be quite an achievement. In 2008, however, that number was only 9%. On the other hand, doctors complain about the systems being unintuitive and the countless hours spent on clicking and entering data. Reportedly, they spend more time doing that than treating their patients.

Read the full article >

Photo credit: Newsweek

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