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A moral and economic imperative: Harnessing health data for better outcomes

By Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director, Health Industry Europe Middle East and Africa, Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation and Andreas Ebert, Regional Technology Officer EU on April 19, 2017

Filed under Health

File cabinet and a cloud

In honor of Data Amp day, we’re taking a look at how data is accelerating innovation in healthcare.

How can we afford not to extract value from the ever-growing amount of health data when it holds the potential to empower a healthier, more sustainable future for all? While this question touches all existing IT paradigms, a new, powerful paradigm emerged which could potentially make it economically feasible for each patient – the cloud.

With cloud computing, massive amounts of data can be stored and processed cost-effectively. At Microsoft, we strive to lead with a Cloud for Global Good, implementing an approach that upholds the highest values in terms of an inclusive, responsible and trusted cloud.

With artificial intelligence, more data can be analyzed faster than ever and turned into insight care teams can use to enable better health outcomes for individuals and populations. And with today’s cybersecurity technologies, all of this can be done in a way that upholds timeless values around protecting patient security and privacy.

What is holding us back?

Reality shows that many health systems aren’t yet realizing the full potential of secondary use of health data. Often, it’s because of a lack of current clarity around just how to balance data-driven innovation with patient privacy and security. One way for health organizations to start finding the right balance is to distinguish between primary and secondary uses of data.

Different rules and protections may apply depending on whether a patient’s data is being used to improve his or her own care directly (primary use) versus it being used as part of a larger set of data to identify previously undetected root causes and insights. Sometimes anonymized or “de-identified” or “pseunomized” patient data needs to be used to advance research, drive innovation, and improve health system management (secondary use).

Andreas Ebert (Regional Technology Officer EU) introduced the idea of a “data re-use maturity model” to help frame the needed debate on this matter. It offers a framework to balance the often live-saving benefits of increased levels of data re-use with the equally important fundamental right to preserve individual’s patient privacy. This data re-use maturity model considers the effects of 4 “maturity levels:” no data re-use, individual consent per single data re-use, consent per multiple data re-uses and data sharing models for precision medical treatment. This discussion seems to be especially important in the context of the ambitious goals to improve health the Commission and OECD laid out in November 2016. And is equally important for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) Member States, as they progress towards implementation of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 2018.

To help health organizations prepare for GDPR and take a patient-centric approach to innovate with health data, we’re co-authoring a whitepaper with the European Cloud in Health Advisory Council, to be released in May during the eHealth week in Malta. It will provide recommendations for how to delineate between primary and secondary uses of data and the kinds of storage, security, and privacy controls that may be appropriate in the different use cases and suggests a framework to bring stakeholders together.

Data for better health can go hand in hand with data protection. That means harnessing individual and collective health data to proactively identify at-risk populations, predict and avert potential health crises, identify treatment options with the best potential outcomes, and more. This could help shift the focus of health systems to preventing illness, rather than just treating it. The voice of patients is a key guidance on this delicate path of how we balance between the safeguards of privacy and security on the one side and the promise of innovation for better health on the other side. We will listen to the voice of patient repress and host a workshop on secondary use of health data on May 8th in Brussels.

As your health organization digitally transforms to innovate with health data, please let us know if you have any questions or need any help via email, Facebook, or Twitter. And stay tuned for detailed guidance in the upcoming whitepaper.

In the meantime, you can read previous blogs by me and Neil Jordan to find out how health organizations are already using AI to promote better health. And you can learn about key privacy, security, and compliance considerations for health organizations and their use of the cloud.

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