Illustration of the future consultation pathway

Is connected data really the future of healthcare?

The right insights from appropriate data analysis could offer significant benefits.

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Illustration of the future consultation pathway
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Sometimes it seems like every day there is a promise that some new interpretation of ‘big data’ will solve every challenge we have in healthcare. But while more information can aid decision making, an overwhelming mass of data can just distract us from the points that matter and lead to greater confusion. Not all data is useful but the right insights from appropriate analysis could offer significant benefits. In healthcare we need to know which data have the potential to make a real difference to outcomes. There is an understandable concern that constant data collection just leads to a need for more and more time consuming analysis and interpretation without providing tangible benefits for patients or healthcare systems.

How can we tell if data from connected healthcare devices has the potential to inform and improve patient-doctor communication in respiratory care? That’s what we wanted to ask and test with a new asthma consultation simulation at the ERS congress last year. This hypothetical consultation of the future was designed to help attendees experience how data from connected healthcare devices such as inhalers might be incorporated into a typical consultation. The idea was simple; with a virtual patient in a typical clinic situation, explore whether the addition of connected data helps physicians feel more confident in their treatment decisions and influences their choices.

Contrary to what might have been expected given seemingly widespread skepticism around the addition of new data to consultations, over two thirds (68%) of participants told us that they felt more confident in making treatment decisions when they had access to connected data.1 Perhaps more importantly, over half (57%) actually changed their decision about how to treat that person after viewing the additional information.1 These results suggest that, while there are still understandable concerns around the collection of healthcare data and how to incorporate it into care, there is potential for connected data to support healthcare professionals in their decision-making.

There are still significant barriers to the increasing use of connected healthcare, but data have the potential to be beneficial.

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  1. Data on file, 2017.