In a global industry mired by burgeoning costs, poor communication and huge wastage, the one thing that can make a difference is sharing.  

In healthcare technology, we hear and talk a lot about big data and the healthcare revolution. We speak of the explosion of data sets, advances in analytics and coin the phrase “beyond the EMR.” Everyone’s talking about it, but what does it mean? What really is going to transform healthcare?

The answer is simple. The thing that is going to improve healthcare and create the opportunity for clinicians to truly deliver better care is this: getting all the right patient information, to the right person, at the right time. You could call this data-driven medicine. You could call this open. And you should call this critical.

Open data doesn’t necessarily mean making data available to anyone for public use – although there are champions of that cause. What I’m talking about is the sharing of medical and related information between authenticated users to ensure that you – and every individual – receives the best care possible.

Putting the right information into the right person’s hands is going to achieve better healthcare outcomes globally through better decisions being made at every step of a person’s healthcare journey. Technology – and the ease of sharing data – is going to revolutionise healthcare.

Health Information Exchanges – popular in the USA and now a focus for many countries in the rest of the world – are a stake in the ground towards this health utopia and they continue to evolve. They endeavour to share healthcare data between organisations, to improve the speed, quality and safety of care at a lower cost. Sharing healthcare information with a multidisciplinary care team can avoid readmissions, medication errors, improve diagnoses and decrease duplicate testing. 

We know that effective interoperability has proved to be a challenge  among many healthcare organisations (HCOs). But data held in disparate silos is unhelpful, so achieving interoperability is mission critical to delivering a better healthcare system.

But that’s not all.

The right technology exists today to pull together all types of relevant data into one comprehensive patient record, that can be shared across organisational and geographical boundaries, and even with the patients themselves. The real value of this kind of longitudinal patient record is unlocked when clinical, behavioural and social data is combined with other information about income, employment, education and housing, not to mention genetics. All of these factors have an enormous bearing on our health outcomes.

We know that health data sets are complex and vast – add to that medical device data, information pulled from the Internet of Things and genomic variation files, and we quickly realise that traditional data platforms will not cope. An open technology platform that can take on traditional sources of data – such as medications, encounters and results – as well as new data sources from areas outside what is considered the traditional healthcare system today – is the game-changer in healthcare. Applying machine learning to that aggregated data to derive predictive algorithms and assess risk, is where the revolution takes hold. Experts suggest that this will deliver precision medicine – a practice that ensures every individual receives the perfect care for them.

But it all starts with sharing: getting all the right data into the right hands at the right time.