It’s ironic to ask the question about bigness here in Texas when inherently the answer is "the bigger the better." But according to some industry experts and speakers at this year’s SXSW conference, bigger is not always better when it comes to health data – at least for now.
Too much data has the potential to mire the healthcare system, inundate doctor’s offices with worried patients, and give hypochondriacs carte blanche to go off the deep end.
Going into a meeting, I was curious about how big data and its "consumerization" is playing out in the health field. Here’s what I’ve learned: If you are a person with a chronic disease who bought any sort of health monitor from the local drug store, a fitness band wearer, or if you have recently downloaded app in Apple’s recently launched ResearchKit, you’re contributing to big data. You’re the one everyone is talking about.
After having listened to perspectives from digital health experts, physicians, and authors on the topic of data and consumers this week at SXSW, it’s clear that there are tremendous opportunities for innovation when it comes to health digitization, but there are still a lot of kinks to iron out.
Here’s some key points:
- The system is not ready for all the data because there’s too much room for error. Imagine the legal implications for an injured patient whose doctor’s office accidently overlooked one out of 10,000 at-home monitoring reports.
- Data is powerful, but companies sometimes forget that they are dealing with people and people aren't analog. Health is a behavioral.
- There is little evidence-based validation of health apps and mobile devices including wearables. Most devices and apps are not FDA approved because the 510(k) clearance process is costly and tedious and out of reach for startups in the wearables industry. As a result physicians are resistant to using them on their patients.
- A split exists between big pharma and digital health companies. The digital health folks want to keep their distance because they don’t want their users to think they’re biased.
At the end of the day, the potential exists for a wonderful convergence of a heavily regulated industry and consumer health data reporting, but it’s going to take more time. As consumers, I say, we keep on tracking and monitoring. What harm can come of it? For doctors and nurses, I say, keep on tracking and monitoring in your conventional way while the industry and government figure out how to bring it all together in a way that is compliant and useful.
Aleisia Gibson is SVP of health at MSLGroup.