Stanford Medicine, the medical school, research center and patient care facility founded in 1908, has published its first ever health trends report.
Titled “Harnessing the Power of Data in Health” and available via request from a Stanford Medicine professional, the review promises “a comprehensive review and analysis of existing health care research and open-source data, combined with insights from Stanford faculty and external health care experts, on the current and emerging trends facing the health care sector.”
The trends report will be published annually in the years to come.
Stanford’s Dean of the School of Medicine Lloyd Minor said “In publishing this report, we hope to show how big data is the most important trend facing the sector and, in the process, inform and educate the entire medical community —including patients, doctors, the private and public sectors — who are actively shaping the future of health care.”
Minor has been the dean since December 2012, overseeing increased support for PhD students and the establishment of Precision Health.
Precision Health focuses on patient-centered care which adapts to individual needs.
The highly personalized treatment provided there enable people to have their specific needs met by some of the nation’s top doctors and medical students.
Stanford’s medical school ranks second only to Harvard’s program in the United States.
Discussing the report, Minor pronounced “institutions like Stanford have a responsibility to drive advances in data management so that patients can be partners in their own care.
By leveraging big data, we can create a vision of health care that is more preventive, predictive, personalized and precise.”
Big data refers to the accumulation of a large volume of information surrounding health care such as averages nationwide, patient information given a particular illness, and the ability to discern best practices across a variety of data centers which are centralized to map out the commonalities between people in different situations.
Stanford believes big data will become an integral part of doctors’ work in the near future.
They hope that “Harnessing the Power of Data in Health” will enable doctors to improve their analytic literacy and assessment skills so that the available information can guide their treatment and help patients.
In their press release, Stanford states that the increasing role of data analytics “will require changes to how health care providers are taught the skills to deliver successful patient outcomes.”
Already, doctors are relying on big data to improve the quality of care provided to patients.
Value-based forms of patient-centered care are becoming the norm as health care professionals seek to reduce the cost of care and get patients back to health quickly.
One way they are doing this is by discerning where redundancies lie in the treatment process and stripping them from the routine wherever possible.
To unlock the benefits of this new focus “requires significant improvements in reporting, claims processing, data management, and process automation.”
Already patients are gaining access to an enormous amount of information about their health.
Stanford points out that “ the rise in wearable devices, genetic testing and other technologies gives patients more information than ever about their own health, making greater efforts to promote health literacy necessary so they can make informed decisions.”
All the data is useless for patients who do not understand what it means and how to use it to improve their daily lives.
Reports like Stanford’s should bring greater awareness and transparency to ordinary people in a way that is accessible to the public.
These wearable devices also make professional health care providers’ lives easier by providing the constant feedback needed to intervene.
“Processing real-time events with machine learning algorithms can provide physicians with insights to help them make lifesaving decisions and allow for effective interventions,” says Carol McDonald.
Stanford’s report points towards exciting new understandings of the data opportunities presented by wearable devices and in-home monitoring machines which physicians must be able to properly interpret over time to steadily increase care for all patients, not just those being viewed directly.
Included in “Harnessing the Power of Data in Health” is the following list of recommendations which “must be prioritized if the impact of big data in health is to be fully realized"
Doctors and other members of the medical community must be more data literate and skilled in data analytics.
Health care organizations need to have the right systems, processes and structures in place to manage big data.
Silos and roadblocks across health care organizations that prevent effective data-sharing must be broken down, but protecting the privacy and security of patient data is paramount.
Encouraging patients to take an active role in their own care and adopt healthier lifestyles remains critical, if challenging.
Rising costs across the U.S.health care system threaten to undermine the role big data can play.
Reforms to electronic health records through the use of better technology and data management will help doctors provide more personalized patient care.