By DAVID LEVESQUE
As more people die every day from COVID-19 (we were edging towards 20,000 casualties in the U.S. at the time this article was written), the answers to what a cure could look like are waiting to be discovered in EMRs and patients’ homes. We have the technology and business models to turn this data into insights, but we are stalling… What seems to be the problem?
First this. It’s time to end the illusion that patients do not pay for healthcare. Whether it is out of pocket, paycheck, or taxes, U.S. citizens pay for 100% of the healthcare spend. It is indeed their healthcare. It follows logically from this that patients should be allowed and empowered to lower the cost and increase the quality of the care they receive. Receiving access to their own medical records is one important way to accomplish this.
In 2017, when I asked the World Economic Forum if there is a study on the cost of lack of interoperability in healthcare they said – “That’s a good idea.”
That was a year after Vice President Biden sponsored the 21st Century Cures Act to create more interoperability and patient data access and ownership in the United States. Finally, in January 2020, ONC published their guidance on how to implement and enforce the law.
As the Trump administration uses executive power to – rightfully – force data sharing between different agencies and institutions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the question remains, who will teach and empower patients to also be part of this movement? Today, researchers are struggling to find healthy, sick, and recovered patients for COVID-19 trials. It does not need to be that way.
Now is the time for true democracy that allows all stakeholders in healthcare to participate and solve problems quickly and in an affordable manner. In order for patients to play their role and better not only their health but others’ as well, they need to have an easy time accessing, sharing and owning their health records.
A great many actors in the healthcare sector are still not complying with the law. Proprietary EHR vendors have in the past locked in a great many doctors, insurance companies and hospitals. The latter three are now free to cut their shackles but are still not always informing patients of their rights correctly. Multiple factors are in play here. The stakeholders might fear scrutiny from patients or sometimes they are really just stuck in their old ways, doing things a certain way because well… that is how things have always been done.
At Andaman7 we believe that smart citizens
should take control of their health and healthcare. This entails managing their
own data and spending their healthcare dollars wherever they wish.
Several countries around the world are having their healthcare systems embrace the data-sharing revolution. In the United States, there is support for this move at the highest level of the federal government, CMS, ONC and FDA.
The bottom line is when patients are empowered with tools like Andaman7, we can have privacy, precision, and profit while improving health and financial outcomes for all stakeholders. And since data is stored on users’ smartphones, patient information is more secure than ever before.
These are challenging times, there is no question about that. But every crisis comes with a silver lining, and the silver lining of this one is that we are now offered a unique opportunity to accelerate the push towards more efficient and patient-centered healthcare through digital health technology. Let’s not squander the momentum but grab this opportunity with both hands.
David Levesque is head of U.S. business development for Andaman7, a global platform to empower patients and speed up health research.