Connected healthcare – still a pipedream?

Connected Healthcare, Electronic Patient Records, the Quantified Self movement all promise a wonderful world of integrated, pervasive health monitoring systems that know all about us from cradle to grave and help make the path from one to the other as healthy as possible.

The problem that exists today though is that there are too many islands of data, too many attempts to create commercial silos, too many entrenched incumbents who don’t like the idea of opening up and too many fears about what insurance companies and employers will do if they ever get to see your data (Gattaca anyone?).

A few years ago I was excited when Microsoft launched HealthVault. Unlike Google’s offering it is still going, but it’s still got a long way to go and it’s a long way from providing a ubiquitous, independent platform for all the other pieces of the puzzle… I live just a few miles from Microsoft’s main campus and yet my doctor, dentist, chiropractor and gym have no clue what HealthVault is or how it could help consolidate and manage my data. It doesn’t help that having moved countries three times so far my historical records are scattered far and wide.

Services like 23andMe (I am a user) create a great pool of data, as does WellnessFX (trying to decide if the price is right) … but there’s no way to consolidate the information from one to the other to see if, for instance, my current bloodwork results indicate that one of the high risk genetic conditions is more likely to occur.

Tools like FitBit, Polar Heart Rate Monitors, Nike FuelBand or the BodyBugg also produce a bunch of data but… it’s all isolated islands (FitBit do sync data to HealthVault but it seems an exception rather than the rule and even then it’s not that robust). Solutions like EarndIt or EveryMove can take data from some of these sources and make it into a game where you’re rewarded for activity…

… But imagine if my pedometer, my scales and blood pressure monitor and glucose readings could be consolidated and fed back to a system which also had visibility into my genetic markers, blood test results, medication etc and apply the depth of analysis that “big data” is bringing to the world it seems like we could become much more proactive in both managing healthcare but also avoiding potentially life threatening mistakes (be it one too many candy bars or a contra-indication prescription) it would both help control the rising medical costs but also free doctors to go back to being able to care holistically for the wellbeing of their patients rather than running their practices as production lines that seem good as writing scripts for expensive medicine rather than actually making people better.

Maybe 2013 will be the year when an interesting startup comes out of nowhere with a plan to fight the incumbent interests and legislative red tape it will take to make this a reality…

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