The power of data in healthcare

16/12/2022 – Written by ThryveThryve in Blogpost – 3 mins read

Medical data is unquestionably the fastest-growing set of data on the planet. While today’s average EHRs, only grow by about 80 MB per year – mostly coming from inefficient storage of huge medical images -, the current explosion in digital health tools and sensors creates a significant boost in health data generated every day. Recent estimates scope the global volume of yearly created health data at 2,314 exabytes (that’s 2.314 billion Gigabytes) – more than factor 3.000 compared to what is captured in EHRs data. As determinants of health lie to almost 90% outside the immediate healthcare system, making sense of this vast amount of data becomes paramount to improving healthcare.

But the fragmentation of the Data, questionable validity and reliability a lack of interoperability as well as legal and political uncertainties block meaningful utilization more often than not.

This, however, is set to change. Let’s explore some of the drivers of this change:


European Health Data Space

The European Union (EU) took the initiative (2022) to coin a European Health Data Space (EHDS) with a corresponding legislative bill earlier this year. Common ruling across member countries as well as unified standards, practices, and infrastructures ought to be part of this new data ecosystem. Patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) alike will gain access to health data gathered from a diverse set of health data sources including modern EHRs and traditional (paper) patient records as well as personal health data generated with consumer health sensors and wearables. While this strategic perspective is promising industry insiders expect that the actual implementation on a pan-European level will create significant challenges and will be prone to delays.

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Use and accessibility of EHRs

On a national level, many countries have introduced an electronic health record (EHR) with varying user engagement. In the US, incentives for widespread EHR adoption were introduced in the early 2010s, leading to an 80%+ integration of EHRs in hospitals. While this led to high fragmentation as hospitals were free to choose any EHR provider that meets certain criteria, most European countries decided on a highly regulated and standardized approach. In Germany, a digital health record was rolled out to more than 74 million publicly insured citizens. Even though interoperability and (comparatively) easy adoption was expected due to the central development of specifications by the national agency of digital health (gematik), adoption rates are still low with just 380.000 users. An anticipated switch to an opt-out model for all patients will most likely lead to a considerably increased user number in the near future.


The steep growth of (new) medical biomarkers

Medical images are the most complex set of data stored within EHRs to this day. This falls dramatically short of the potential a digital (and smart) patient record can pose in understanding holistic health. Expanded data coverage including nutritional values, environmental factors, microbiome as well as high-frequency activity, and vital data, among others would have a massive effect on improving (and automating) care delivery. This leaves a gap with massive potential in the current healthcare system – and a perspective, that this data will be available at an unprecedented scale thanks to the regulatory changes outlined.


The winners of this new wealth of data

Digital health services are uniquely positioned to gather holistic health information today, leveraging their continuous, low-friction contact with patients. While the collection of patient-reported data is an essential part of today’s health dimensions, the use of patients’ smart devices put this data in an essential perspective.

Data from wearables, connected medical products, and even smartphones provide contextual information that helps health services understand treatment progress better. In contrast to the distilled data of EHRs, longitudinal 24/7 health sensor data improves diagnoses (more than 30%), treatment interaction (more than factor 2), and outcome transparency, raising CLTV.

Once a full healthcare system moved to data transparency, it’s those services that built their “disease management engine” on 24/7 health sensor data from the start, that will be able to provide the best care.

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