How A.I. and blockchain are driving precision medicine in 2017


The healthcare headlines this year have been dominated by the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, against the backdrop of a long-term transition to value-based care (VBC), a handful of emerging technology initiatives are quietly making news in advancing precision medicine in healthcare.

Healthcare is concerned primarily with three things today:

  • Unlocking the value of data for insights that will drive precision medicine and population health.
  • Improving efficiencies by enabling seamless digital experiences for patients and caregivers.
  • Ensuring security and privacy in transmitting and storing personal health information.

The promise of precision medicine requires complete access to all available data about an individual. Over the past few years, digitization of health records through the implementation of EHR systems has covered the vast majority of hospitals and physician practices. Efforts to unlock value from unstructured data are already under way using natural language processing (NLP) technologies. The onward march toward VBC involves the leveraging of structured and unstructured data from all kinds of sources.

Much of the data available about patients is generated in clinical settings. A new data source called patient generated health data (PGHD) refers to data generated from patients via wearables and consumer health applications. Other data sources include sensors and smart devices that are part of the internet of things (IoT) and are capable of transmitting data wirelessly through remote monitoring systems.

Though there has been a considerable growth in consumer health apps and wearables over the past few years, much of the data is unusable or not being used for a variety of reasons. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has just released a draft report on PGHD and its role in healthcare research and delivery. Consulting firm Accenture, which was contracted by the ONC to identify challenges and opportunities in the adoption of PGHD, released a white paper outlining the current state, including an expected timeline for adoption of PGHD in clinical protocols. The white paper draws on the experience of pilot projects conducted at Sutter Health, a large health system in northern California. The projects focused on patients with Type 2 diabetes and used PGHD from various devices in real time.

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