Patient data informatics can improve clinical outcomes, but stakeholders will have to build a seamless flow of information and win over skeptical patients.
The digital revolution in the healthcare industry is spreading far beyond the boundaries of the hospital walls.
"People are using smart phones and they are using their Fitbits and other wearables such as the Apple Watch. So people are tracking the basics—how many calories they burn in a day and so forth," says Sanket Shah, a University of Illinois at Chicago adjunct professor in the school's Department of Health Informatics and Health Information Management.
"That activity has exploded over the past five or six years. We are seeing from these examples that there is a market for this technology, and people are willing to engage and interact in generating information that is critical to their health," Shah says.
Health systems, hospitals, physician practices, and healthcare payers are already seizing opportunities to realize the potential of home-based data collection technology, he says. Shah lists weight scales, pedometers, blood pressure cuffs, and glucose monitors as tools for targeting obesity, hypertension and other chronic conditions.
"Better clinical outcomes also generate better financial outcomes. You are avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and visits to the ER because you have a pulse on the patient population."
Data collection through home-based technology is destined to become a key component of the financial mechanisms that support value-based care, Shah says.
"A lot of measures are tracked and leveraged to distribute incentives for not only health systems and other providers but also for patients. Common measures, such as diabetics' a1c levels, will be monitored across all government programs, all ACOs, and all pay-for-performance contracts.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.