Stanford sees healthcare democratization a big trend for 2019 and beyond

A new report from the university says intelligent computing and data sharing advances spurred by companies such as Apple are reshaping old ways of doing business.
By Benjamin Harris
10:50 AM
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With the extreme proliferation of data comes the opportunity to further democratize healthcare, according to Stanford University School of Medicine's 2018 Health Trends Report.

The university found that the influx of data was taking healthcare by storm and that technologies that were old hat in other industries  are still in their infancy in the healthcare. The barriers to this data are falling fast, however, and the report identifies three main trends in technology that are driving remarkable change in how physicians, researchers and patients all share information.

Intelligent computing. Physicians will be able to use new computing power to develop tailored treatment plans based on the complex interplay of health data that is a patient. Greater insight into patient data, along with being able to utilize a much wider range of trial-based information gathered and presented by intelligent computing could help reduce healthcare spending by billions in only a manner of years.

Data sharing. The report notes that "democratization necessitates openness," and that all of the computing and insights in the world will not amount to much unless the data is shared between all stakeholders. Interoperability is still a great challenge but technologies like APIs, which standardize how applications communicate with one another, promise to help improve the exchange of data. Much of this is being driven by companies new to healthcare, like Lyft or Apple.

Security, privacy and safety. AI gains its strength from being able to sift through massive amounts of data. However, the consideration of doctor-patient privacy complicates the ownership and privacy of the very data these new tools rely on. Data breaches are frustratingly common in almost every industry and healthcare is hardly immune. While the healthcare and tech industries need to gain and maintain patient trust, the report notes that a large amount of people already rely on Google for health information.

AI can offer greater insights and process results markedly faster – and sometimes more accurately – than a human clinician alone. Additionally, as more biometric and health data is captured, doctors will lean on machine learning to transition from standardized to personalized healthcare.

As the way information is shared changes, there will be less onus on physicians to take on more mundane aspects of the job and they will be instead able to focus energy on the task for which they are best suited- practicing medicine. Patients who have a greater understanding of their health data and who have a greater role in communicating and collaborating with practitioners will become more engaged stakeholders in their health.

While new technologies promise to improve care and reduce time-wasting and error-prone work, there are significant challenges in making data universally available while also guarding its security and ensuring its use remains ethical and safe.

With other industries to provide examples and many of the major shifts already well underway though, the report sees democratization in healthcare as having the potential to reinvent the doctor patient relationship.

Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.
Twitter: @BenzoHarris.