Structured Health Data and Patient Consent can Unlock the Value of AI

By Derrick Chow, COO of Medchart

The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare – ranging from operational efficiencies to patient outcomes – is vast. Still, many organizations struggle to turn that potential into actual value to make it more efficient and collaborative, and most importantly, to improve care. One of the most significant obstacles to unlocking AI’s potential is the quality of the data itself.

The healthcare industry creates significant data, but the insight AI provides is limited when data sets are incomplete. While the problem is easy enough to understand, addressing it is challenging – but not impossible – to overcome. Two things healthcare organizations can do are to provide structured, coded healthcare data and improve the patient consent process.

In the US, the 21st Century Cures Act will accelerate digital access for patients to their health records in a machine-readable, interoperable form. This will open the door for AI developers who need access to greater amounts of personalized data to provide precision healthcare insights.

While Canada doesn’t have a similar regulation, healthcare organizations should still be working toward more structured data to keep pace with patients who prefer providers that can offer data portability to their consumer apps.

Many offices and health systems rely heavily on faxing and mailing information to one another, which seems antiquated when contrasted against how patients use technology via wearables and apps to manage their health.

By digitizing health data, providers can share and combine data from other departments within, or external to, the organization to make their operations more efficient. And when the historical patient data is combined with patient-generated data from their apps and wearable devices, care can be dramatically improved.

Additionally, healthcare organizations are better equipped to address public health emergencies like COVID-19 when health data is available to help them make critical, real-time decisions.

An often-overlooked, but critical, component to freeing data for AI insights is the patient consent process, which can be tedious and unintuitive for patients. When access is stuck at consent, it is difficult to generate the benefits AI can offer. Healthcare organizations can expedite the process by implementing intuitive methods for patients to give their consent. Here are some things to consider:

  • Device integration: Digital consent forms should be compatible with whatever device a patient uses, whether it’s a desktop computer, phone, or tablet. The experience should also integrate with whatever brand of device a patient uses.
  • Transparency: Patients won’t want to spend a lot of time giving consent, but at the same time, they need to know what they’re consenting to. So, it is essential to include as much information as necessary by law while quickly getting to the specific reason you’re asking for their consent.
  • Reward: It’s also important to share with patients the benefits of giving their consent. In some cases, it may be used for vital medical research, for example. In other instances, the data may be shared with the patient’s attorney or insurance company that needs it to represent them in a lawsuit or complete a life insurance submission.

Obtaining access to data is about more than technology – trust is also essential. One way to gain trust is to ensure that the data a patient shares with you is secure. Once data privacy is breached, a slew of issues can occur that may offset the value AI can bring.

Originally Posted on Canadian Healthcare Technology Magazine:

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