Big Data and Connecting to Patients

Health care needs to increasingly go to where the patients are and data can always be bigger and more useful, according to the speakers at the Forbes Healthcare Summit.

To continue as a viable business, health care providers need to increasingly go to the patients, according to speakers at the Forbes Healthcare Summit.

The speakers during the session “The Walk-in Clinic Revolution” were Traver Hutchins, CEO of ASAP Urgent Care LLC; Richard Rothman, founder of the Rothman Institute and James Edward professor at Thomas Jefferson University; Andrew Sussman, senior vice president and associate chief medical officer of CVS Caremark and president of MinuteClinic; and Robert Wah, president-elect of the American Medical Association.

The consensus was that the patient needs to be treated more like a consumer and that care needs to go to the patient rather than making the patient drive long distances and pay a large amount of money to receive care.

“It’s imperative at this point that we think of things differently,” Sussman said. “There’s tremendous opportunity to be creative and disruptive.”

Wah said that despite the many changes, some good and some bad, that health care is going through, he’s gratified to see that people are still interested in becoming doctors; however, he doesn’t know if that will always be the case. In particular, he pointed at the narrowing gap between medical school graduates and places available to train them.

“I’m concerned that all the issues in health care will start to drive away the best and the brightest,” he said.

This, of course, only feeds into the looming physician shortage and the importance of walk-in clinics.

And while one physician in the audience called these clinics mere band-aids, Wah said that he and the AMA welcome walk-in clinics as long as there is care continuity.

In a later panel, the need for community clinics was touched on again, but that these clinics all needed to be integrated so the patient data could be accessed elsewhere, according to Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth; Sue Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco; Glen de Vries, president of Medidata Solutions; and Stephen Friend, president of Sage Bionetworks.

Desmond-Hellmann lamented that not only is care siloed, but so are the data right now, adding that the tough rules on patient privacy really impede a sharing of data that could improve care.

Contrary to popular belief, HIPAA isn’t the biggest obstacle, though, according to Bush. The problem is that while the best way is to treat in the community, each hospital and clinic is using its own system and they aren’t talking to each other so accessing that data is difficult.

And while the panelists all envisioned a future where patients could volunteer to be data donors the way they would be an organ donor, de Vries played devil’s advocate, asking if we really need data to get bigger.

However, he did concede that sometimes it’s the exhaust in the system, the extra data captured that isn’t being used right now, that ends up being interesting and useful down the line.

“There’s plenty of data out there … and it’s never going to be enough,” Friend summed up.