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When Data Isn't Enough

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, October 4, 2011

To be clear, I'm not dismissing any of the innovative ideas presented at the conference. We are making great strides toward getting data into the hands of those patients who want it and know what to do with it.

And for those who are not quite there yet but want to be, the government is taking action to educate patients about health information and the technologies they can use to access and interpret it. High-tech body sensors that track blood pressure, heart rate, steps, and more will appeal to the large and growing population of gadget geeks.

But there's still a crying need for easy-to-use (dare I say low-tech?) solutions to the problem of public health (or lack thereof). I'm talking about solutions that require as little effort on the part of the non-engaged patient as possible.

There were a few disarmingly simple ideas that stood out for me, including one from the Society for Participatory Medicine that uses data in a way that has the potential to reach lots of people in a way that can be easily understand.

The organization is aiming to certify 10,000 physicians as being adept at partnering with their patients to improve health. Much like those "People love us on Yelp" stickers you see in restaurant windows, the group's seal of approval would identify physicians who meet the organization's standards for participatory medicine: Providing patients with their own personal health data, getting input from patient advisors to guide their practices, and providing other medical resources to patients.

Healthcare data needs to be widely accessible and easy to understand. Once we've accomplished that, let the Angry Birds games commence.

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