Written by Stephanie Trunzo, Senior Vice President and GM, Oracle Health

The healthcare sector generates 19 terabytes of clinical data each year. That’s the equivalent of 4,750 movies, or enough storage to house 5.89 million photos.

But what are we doing with all that data?

Data, by its very nature, is historic and therefore utilised to examine the past. Thematically, that’s not its only purpose; data helps inform our present and future. With real-time systems, we’re getting closer to being able to leverage data in the present moment; engineers have transmitted data at the rate of 1.84 petabits per second – almost twice the global internet traffic per second. However, the greatest value data can give us is the ability to see into the future.

No field can benefit more from data’s impact on people than healthcare. With advancements in technology, we gain visibility into our present and future states of health. Only when we’ve sifted through historical data to become smarter, find patterns, and advance algorithms to accurately inform clinical decisions, disease surveillance, and public health policies can we confidently say data has served its purpose.

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Data has been oriented around supporting systems rather than humans. Unless we reorient data around people, we can’t move toward the future of health where we successfully transform reactionary care to informed wellbeing. This leap from data to wisdom is a choice – a choice we must make today if we want to inform our tomorrow.

The global challenge: where’s the person in today’s healthcare?

Imagine you’re faced with this scenario: an accident or injury brings you to an accident and emergency department (A&E). Imaging completed in A&E subsequently leads to a follow-up visit with other healthcare providers who have no record of your A&E visit. As a patient, it’s frustrating to prioritise paperwork over health and act as a recordkeeper between health systems when all you need is care and comfort.

Patients aren’t winning because they don’t have the expertise or knowledge to aggregate data across myriad systems; as consumers of healthcare, we expect the system to bring that information to the point of care. Clinicians aren’t winning, either, as more time is spent re-entering data than caring for patients. In the end, the healthcare system ignores the people it was designed to protect.

Only when we’ve sifted through historical data to become smarter, find patterns, and advance algorithms to accurately inform clinical decisions, disease surveillance, and public health policies can we confidently say data has served its purpose.

Data interconnectedness

Why is it that a retail store has our purchasing history, but healthcare providers don’t have our health history? Health data is a critical component that can impact our lives. The answer is our past health data lives in fragmented health systems – which are still in use today – and remains disconnected and therefore unusable, despite its collective relevance to our health.

Health data interoperability is the missing key that can unlock a door of possibilities – including cloud and analytic collaboration between industries, technological and clinical innovation, and ultimately, improvements in patient outcomes and experiences. Interoperability allows secure and actionable information exchange so that imaging insights extracted during an A&E visit can actually inform the care received during a follow-up appointment.

Information exchange between industries – for example, deidentified health system data used in life sciences – can lead to advancements in research, genomics, disease management, and precision medicine, ultimately promoting positive experiences and outcomes for both providers and patients. Our data from the past doesn’t have to live in cold storage when it has the potential to fuel the future.

So, with all the health data people have generated, how can we successfully use it for people?

1. Reorienting data around people

First, we must be intentional in shifting the data lens toward people:

    • Organisations must take a people-centric approach toward understanding and assessing what data already exists in their systems and how this data can be securely and permissibly used to enrich research and advance patient treatments.
    • From the patient perspective, pursuing the willingness to contribute data for the greater good – and therefore saving future generations who may suffer from the same conditions – is pivotal.
    • As technologists, we can cultivate an understanding of people-centric experiences when designing systems to ensure they’re truly centred around patients and their safety.
    • Citizen participation should be embedded in public health policies; people must have the means to contribute their ideas toward research decisions that use their data.
    • Strengthening patient trust around data is critical. Patients have the right to know who’s using their data, what it’s used for, and whether it’s driving value. People feel more comfortable sharing data when they can see the value they’re providing or receiving. For example, giving clinical trial participants access to trial results showing how their data contributed to a new learning establishes trust that invariably encourages future participation.

Oracle Health seeks to be the driver of that change. We understand it’s necessary to shift the lens of healthcare from systems to people as we leverage our expertise in data, not just to create aligned and interlocked data, but to turn historical data into real insights.

2. Collaborating across industries

If we can receive online recommendations regarding a sweater that matches our jeans, why should recommendations regarding our health be so difficult? Why can’t we learn and leverage expertise from other industries to create the same data-inspired potential healthcare desperately needs?

The good news is the technology already exists, and the healthcare industry is gathering momentum like never before. This momentum isn’t a race to a solution, but rather a gateway to industry collaboration in which we can work together to maximise our individual resources and best technical capabilities.

At Oracle Health, we believe we can bring something unique to the broader ecosystem through industry collaboration. Through our work with governments and research institutions across the world, we’ve applied shared learnings, vision, and technology toward battling diseases including COVID-19 and HIV.

We can’t do this alone. Now that we’ve come out of the pandemic with a greater sense of purpose to tackle healthcare, we need partners – and we must create an open ecosystem in which records are accessible and unified regardless of where a person receives care. Organisations must alter the way they develop their solutions to enable data interconnectedness across different organisations and partners.

3. Using technology to breathe life into the past

With the power of technology, we can create actionable insights that transform systems of record into systems of intelligence, and data can help doctors detect disease faster. When we get to the stage where we’re using technology – such as AI, machine learning, and data modelling to be predictive about the future – that’s when we’ll truly experience the shift from reactive care to proactive care that helps people live healthier lives. Historical health data from inventory, research, Internet of Things, medical devices, or electronic health records that has been trapped in systems or on paper and not fully utilised is an information goldmine waiting to be transformed into meaningful information.

Combining deidentified historical data, current data, and real-time data makes predictive modelling more dependable and helps reveal insights into a patient’s health. Think of the data collected from cancer patients – that which accounts for environmental disparities, genetic predispositions, demographic factors, and other health conditions – utilised to predict a specific cancer risk in a person who meets those criteria. Similarly, past data, genomic sequencing, and AI-based precision medicine may equip a provider to design a tailored treatment plan for that patient.

With advanced technologies, data insights can be derived, aggregated, and analysed from all facets of healthcare, including clinical, revenue management, public health, and human capital, among other areas. For example, hospitals could forecast patient flow and resource capacity around peak flu season to improve scheduling, efficiency, and patient and staff experience.

4. Taking a global approach

When we take a global approach to data, we open a world of possibilities. Thinking about healthcare from a global perspective brings point of care, fuelled by global data and expertise, closer to people. Without this perspective, we’re missing half of the equation. We need to unify past data from across the world – not just a few countries – to bring a treasure trove of information not in existence today to clinicians.

The future of data

We’re at a tipping point in healthcare and moving from the past into the present and future, with data driving transformation. We’re building a portfolio that combines Oracle’s robust and secure foundation in data technology, cloud infrastructure, apps, and analytic tools with the clinical knowhow and real-world healthcare experience of Cerner.

At Oracle Health, we want to envision and build what the future of data looks like and use technology to its fullest capacity to transform health. Visit our team at MedInfo 2023 at booth #67 to discuss how we can deliver this transformation together.