Previously, MedTech largely sat in the hands of providers, and improvements primarily supported the work of healthcare professionals. Now, many of us wear MedTech devices on our wrists or fingers. The proliferation of devices like wearables means that we now have an abundance of patient-generated health data (PGHD).

PGHD refers to any health information created, recorded, and gathered by patients. The collection methods might vary, but smartwatches and smartphones are some of the most common means right now. PGHD might include a person’s health and treatment history, vitals data, and lifestyle choices.

One of the main draws of PGHD is how it empowers patients and enables them to understand and participate in their health journey. 

PGHD also lightens the burden for those needing to monitor specific health aspects daily. For example, wearable glucose monitors can make life easier for people with diabetes. Rather than someone pricking their finger daily and recording their blood-sugar levels, a specialised wearable device can collect this information and send it to their healthcare provider.

The benefits of patient-generated health data

Patient-generated health data brings rich benefits to the entire healthcare ecosystem:

  • Improving patient engagement: When patients have access to their health data, they can identify patterns and trends they may not have been aware of before and leverage this information to make more informed decisions about their health. When patients feel empowered with the options to direct their health journey, satisfaction increases.
  • Better communication between patients and care providers: When patients can share their data with their doctors, it fosters an open and collaborative relationship. This ultimately leads to better care for the patient. Healthcare professionals might spot irregularities quickly as they have access to past trends and can make informed decisions fast.
  • Improved patient care and outcomes: PGHD can support individualised care plans and improve clinical decision-making. Healthcare professionals can use the patient’s historical data to inform the latest treatments they seek.
  • Increased understanding of population health trends: PGHD identifies trends in population health and supports professionals in developing targeted solutions to widespread issues.
  • Reduce healthcare costs: By allowing patients to track their health data, healthcare professionals can flag potential problems early on. It also reduces the need for some types of routine checkups because patients with wearable devices will generate data such as heartbeat and breathing patterns. This can help avoid more costly interventions further down the road.

What challenges may arise in using patient-generated health data?

Despite the benefits of leveraging PGHD, healthcare leaders must overcome a few barriers to realise the full potential of patient-generated data.

The lack of interoperability between devices, EHRs and medical professionals hinders us from gleaning the full value of PGHD. The inability to exchange and aggregate data from disparate sources hinders insights that might improve clinical decision-making and health outcomes.

There are also challenges around patients’ willingness to share their data. While there is growing recognition of the potential value of patient-generated health data, there is also concern about privacy and security. Patients may be reluctant to share their data if they do not trust its safety in transit. For patients to be willing to share their health data, they need to feel confident that their information will be kept secure. 

Another challenge is that patient-generated data is often unstructured and hard to interpret. This data needs to be collected and organised to make it useful for healthcare providers. Otherwise, it will just be another source of noise that they have to filter through.

Despite these challenges, patient-generated health data has the potential to transform healthcare. This data can provide insights that are not possible with traditional clinical data sources. By understanding and addressing the challenges, we can unlock the full potential of this data to improve healthcare.

Interoperability for patient-generated data and EHRs

There are several ways to collect PGHD, including wearable devices, apps, and manual input. Once collected, healthcare professionals can leverage this data to track patterns, identify potential health problems early, and make informed treatment decisions. But, where is the best place to store this information?

For patients and healthcare providers to get the most from PGHD, we need interoperability between patient devices and EHRs.

The ability for patient-generated health data to seamlessly interface with EHRs has the potential to revolutionise healthcare. By allowing patients to input their health information into the EHR directly, doctors and other caregivers can have instant access to a complete picture of the patient’s health. When these elements work in harmony, we begin to see the depths of the benefits I discussed earlier.

What needs to happen first?

PGHD is already starting to make an impact in healthcare. And as more and more patients begin to use it, we can only expect its influence to grow.

The barriers standing in the way of PGHD are not only that of interoperability and data security. These barriers come in many different forms, not all being technical challenges:

  • Operational models in healthcare will need to change to accommodate cloud-enabled interoperability
  • Little commercial benefit for incumbents due to no commitment from the Federal government as yet
  • Some organisations simply lack the knowledge to get more from these platforms.

Ultimately, patient-generated health data has the potential to transform healthcare for the better. But for that to happen, we need to break down the barriers preventing it from being used to its full potential.

Fluffy Spider is your consultant in patient-generated health data

We help organisations move toward a future of connected digital healthcare, making existing systems interoperable and modernising infrastructure to unlock the potential of new technologies.

We can help you identify the relevant opportunities to incorporate modern web services and standards for health information exchange, such as FHIR. This enables systems to interoperate with other modern health information exchange technologies from the medical software industry and those already implemented by large healthcare providers such as Government health departments.

Visit our Advisory and Consulting page to learn more about our capabilities and solutions.