The global healthcare dataset is massive and grows larger each day. Widespread adoption of electronic health records (“EHR”), digital medical imaging, health monitoring tools, wearable devices, and other recent technological advances are projected to drive a 36% annual growth rate in the total volume of healthcare data through 2025, according to a recent report from IDC. The potential impact of this mountain of information is staggering. Effectively organizing and analyzing this data can improve patient outcomes and provide valuable insights on overall health trends. However, there are several hurdles on the path toward realizing the full potential of this information.
Who owns all of this data? In 49 states (New Hampshire excluded) the patient is not explicitly deemed to be the owner of his or her own health information. In general, the information belongs to the party that created or authored it, meaning that medical records are the legal property of the provider. However, there are numerous state and federal restrictions guarding the acceptable use of medical records. Any protected health information (“PHI”) containing information such as patient demographics, clinical outcomes, payment history, and financial data is covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), which Congress passed in 1996 to protect patients’ identities and to uphold the confidentiality of health information.
Health organizations and contracted business associates can aggregate and utilize covered datasets in order to improve health care operations and, in limited circumstances, to create research databases. All PHI must be “de-identified” before being utilized for any outside purposes such as third-party data mining and analysis. The de-identification process requires the removal of key information and impacts the utility of the information. Private companies seeking to leverage covered data must deftly navigate these regulatory waters; in recent years several companies that have been overly cavalier with protected information have suffered the consequences. For example, in 2014 PaymentsMD and its CEO entered into a consent order with the FTC for failing to inform customers who enrolled in an online billing system that the Company would obtain detailed health information from health providers and insurance companies.
Valuable healthcare information is often overlooked and underutilized due to antiquated information systems. Medical records are regularly stored in unstructured formats, lacking critical information such as patient outcomes and treatment history. Moreover, vastly differing IT systems between healthcare organizations restricts the ability to aggregate large datasets between institutions. Organizing health data to make it accessible, analyzable, and conducive to sharing among organizations would allow small providers, researchers, and others who don’t own massive datasets to tap into a larger universe of health data and would unleash the full power of the world’s health information.
Several independent companies today are creatively utilizing healthcare data to provide valuable insights to providers. For example, Enlitic’s software platform uses deep learning to mine hospital data for subtle patterns that will improve diagnoses. Spurred by Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer MoonShot initiative, companies have made great strides in the aggregation and analysis of cancer data. Syapse’s Learning Health Network is a global platform designed for sharing of precision oncology data, allowing physicians to utilize prior patient outcomes to support treatment decisions. Start-up Flatiron Health aggregates and analyzes medical records to identify useful trends and was recently acquired by Swiss multinational diagnostics and pharmaceutical company Roche.
The ideas that will drive the future of healthcare may currently be buried deep within electronic medical records, waiting to be uncovered by innovative analysts. Companies with the ability to effectively organize and analyze the world’s healthcare data will have the power to drastically improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of care.
MHT Partners, a leading healthcare services investment bank, believes that innovative, niche solutions that decrease the cost of care while improving outcomes will shape the future state of healthcare. If you would like to learn more about MHT’s healthcare services advisory practice, please e-mail Taylor Curtis (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Alex Sauter (email@example.com).
“Big Data Analytics Under HIPAA,” Arnall Golden Gregory LLP
“Big Data to See Explosive Growth, Challenging Healthcare Organizations,” Health IT Analytics
“Precision Oncology Needs Data Sharing: Integrating Genomic and Clinical Data to Advance Patient Care,” Syapse
“Tapping Into the Big Value of Health Care Big Data,” Foley & Lardner LLP
“The Fight for Patient Privacy Under Big Data Analytics,” Medical Bag
“The Role of Healthcare Data Governance in Big Data Analytics,” Health IT Analytics
“Who Really Owns Your Health Data?” Forbes