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  • Personal Connected Health Alliance executive vice president Patty Mechael explains how genomics, fitness devices and other wearables are engaging people in their own health and why the industry needs good interfaces.

    Big data in healthcare has been seized on by major vendors and large health systems, particularly with incentives related to population health. In what ways does this movement support patients?

    Big data and analytics serve patients and people more broadly in several ways.

    First, there is the basic dashboard provided by fitness trackers, which provide data and trends on everything from steps to pulse rate to sleep. Over a year, this data comprising thousands of points with the support of user-friendly analytics is starting to help people interpret the data and make meaningful lifestyle choices to enable an enhanced state of health or support in overcoming or managing a chronic or episodic illness. It can also be used to set a baseline for future comparison with one’s former self and for measuring individual and collective health trends over time.

    Some sites are now providing individuals with big data so that they can compare their condition with others. For instance, PatientsLikeMe offers data on symptoms and treatments from thousands of patients. For Crohn’s Disease, for example, there are more than 100,000 members and the site provides a graphic display of common symptoms, how bad the symptom is and what people are taking for it. So for abdominal pain, treatments include Tramadol, Fentanyl Transdermal Patch and Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy).  23andMe, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing company provides data to compare one’s DNA profile with thousands of others, includes carrier status reports and wellness reports.

    Big data is not just for providers or health system administrators and health insurance companies. If displayed in easily interpretable ways, big data directly benefits the people, whether through wearables or data shared by other consumers via online communities.

    The Personal Connected Health Alliance sees big data as a tool of empowerment for people to become more actively engaged in their own health. By monitoring their physical activity, a person can have a greater understanding of their health status and work to improve his or her health. Through big data, by learning how others manage similar conditions, an individual is empowered to better manage that condition.

    When the data is reliably validated through technical standards, the information it produces can be trusted. We believe that creating good user interfaces makes it easier for people to make meaningful decisions to stay healthy and better manage illness.

    Patty Mechael is executive vice president of the Personal Connected Health Alliance. 

    HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.

    This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.

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