Data is a valuable resource for human health. Big Data creates scientific advances and innovations and thus increases the competitiveness of both science and companies – and saves many lives. The innovative and cooperative health data platform, healthbank, is optimally designed to integrate data, partners and applications from the healthcare sector quickly, efficiently and highly securely.
Today, it is no longer just a matter of collecting countless amounts of data (big data), but of processing them in order to make better decisions. The way decisions are made and research conducted in a wide variety of scientific disciplines will change dramatically. Examples can quickly illustrate the potential of big and smart data: for example, in the case of genetic diseases, the comparative analysis of gene data from several people could make it possible to identify typical gene sequences, and identify new starting points for combating a disease.
However, huge amounts of data are also being collected outside the health biotope today. They are mainly collected from more than 2.5 million downloaded apps, from providers including Apple, Google Play and Amazon. These programs can be used to record daily strides, measure heart sounds, check vision, calculate fertile days, monitor sleep or remind people to take pills. Every second smartphone owner has at least one health app installed. Health apps for fitness, diet and meditation generate the largest turnover in Switzerland, as a “Statista” evaluation from February 2018 shows. In 2016, sales of health apps amounted to an estimated 16 billion dollars.
As users, you usually don’t pay anything; the producers of the apps earn their money by selling the collected data to marketing or sales companies. The patient remains outside. What do doctors, hospitals and researchers do? This segment of the healthcare industry hardly exploits the enormous potential of the data collected in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals. Missed opportunities! Health data, if stored in a structured way, is of enormous benefit in two respects: for administration to increase efficiency and for science to generate new findings. If a patient is transferred to a hospital today, the information about him is transmitted by fax or e-mail, where it is transferred by human hand to the data storage system there. At best, a PDF can then be saved.
However, data has enormous potential for research. With new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, large amounts of data can be used to gain insights that cannot be obtained with conventional research methods. This can be used to develop instruments that support doctors in making diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.
The reasons why the potential of the data can only be marginally exploited are complex. Johann Steurer, Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Zurich, and the internist Hans Groth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the WDA Forum (World Demographic & Ageing Forum), have given the following reasons for this in a newspaper article:
“The first reason is the large initial expenditure for storage in electronic form. A second reason is the differences in the way data is stored. Accordingly, many data cannot be read and processed by other computer systems. A third reason is legal uncertainty: Who owns the patient data? Who has access to this data? Can the data be used anonymously for research and can it be sold to third parties such as the pharmaceutical industry or Google? Data protectors ensure compliance with existing privacy rules, but there are grey areas that unsettle many people. Finally, a fourth reason is that the digitisation of all data makes doctors’ behaviour transparent. Authorities or insurance companies could see at the push of a button who has arranged which examinations and therapies.”
A health data platform like healthbank could dramatically reduce this unproductive work. All persons authorised by the patient could be granted access via the healthbank health platform. The time required for administrative tasks would be significantly reduced and costs in the billions would be saved. In the near future, healthbank’s goal is to be able to use personal health data anywhere and at any time, not only at home, but also, for example, in the home.
Author: Roger Huber