Jens Kögler | Healthcare Industry Director EMEA | VMware
Our DNA is what makes us human and unique. It’s something we’re all familiar with but most people probably don’t know what it stands for (Deoxyribonucleic acid, for those of you that are wondering). It’s synonymous with healthcare but, for the sector in general can be used to signify something so much more simple, but no less important – ‘Data Needed to Advance’.
This is because consumer data is at the core of everything happening in the world of healthcare, which our latest Digital Frontiers research has looked at in detail.
The worlds of health and data are intertwining
We don’t need to look far to see evidence of how the worlds of health and data are intertwining. For example, one of the largest funding packages is the German Hospital Future act. This €4.3b fund has been set up to boost digitalisation in health, targeting specifically areas such as patient portals, digital medication management, decision support systems, digital AE – areas which today are often manual and paper based where knowledge and insight are hard to extract. Elsewhere, the 2022 EU4Health work programme has been allocated a budget of more than €835 million to boost health systems in Europe, including around €77 million for digital investment. This is for the establishment of the European health data space, which aims to promote better exchange and access across member states to health data such as electronic health records (EHRs), genomics data, and data from patient registries.
To give some idea of scale, consider this – health data makes up 30% of the world’s stored data. That is just under 18 zettabytes (ZB) and, for context, one zettabyte is 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits. A single patient generates up to 80 megabytes yearly in imaging and EMR data alone. At a micro level, many of us have now had virtual GP consultations or received diagnoses via our mobiles. In a world of wearables, smartphones and medical techniques that are advancing daily, healthcare and data are now so interconnected that it is impossible to have one without the other.
Genie is out of the bottle on data
This is all because of trust. In a healthcare scenario – much more than say, retail or banking – consumers are required to share their data in order to find a cure. Similarly, healthcare is building trust by taking patients seriously, allowing enough time for a diagnosis and using all available information to find the best treatments. At the same time, the industry must mitigate the issues that damage this trust, like the data breaches. Indeed, according to this report, cybersecurity breaches hit an all-time high in 2021, exposing a record amount of patients’ protected health information (PHI). In 2021, 45 million individuals were affected by healthcare attacks, up from 34 million in 2020. That number has tripled in just three years, growing from 14 million in 2018.
Our Digital Frontiers research found that well over half (56%) of consumers feel comfortable or excited with medical consultations via video tools in the first instance. Looking more broadly, the research also uncovered a genuine consumer appetite for more digital and data-sharing applications. Almost half (46%) are comfortable or excited about a more qualified doctor conducting invasive surgery via remote robotics vs. a less-qualified doctor conducting it in person, while 61% of people feel comfortable or excited at having sensors and real-time data monitoring in place for a family member to predict when they will need medical assistance.
Put simply, despite the clear threats posed by data loss, as a society, when it comes to healthcare, we’re much more invested into sharing information in a way we are not with, say, governments. More on this in our blog, here.
A window into the future of health
Older generations give those below them a window into the future of health and means data and information is, quite rightly, being lauded as arguably our greatest weapon of defence in the fight against fallibility or frailty. Take Alzheimer’s for instance, where more and more of us are being affected, both directly and indirectly, which is leading to a much greater societal willingness to submit data with the aim of finding a cure – evidenced by the launch of Outreach Pro, launched last year by the Alzheimer’s Association. Closer to home there is the Health-X data loft – a project in Germany that aims to create a “citizen-centered health data space” placing citizens at the center of its focus, transforming them from passive recipients of services to active partners.
How we evolve from here is the pertinent point. By virtue of increasing the prevalence of technology in healthcare, we’re simultaneously reducing the burden and need for humans to the degree that many elements will eventually be human-free – some already are. But in most cases in healthcare, it won’t be a case of human Vs. machine, but of AND.
An early adopter of AI, University Hospital Essen is now a leader in the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. AI enables doctors to diagnose and create treatment plans through cognitive computer systems. Dr. Felix Nensa, radiologist at Essen University Hospital and group leader at the Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine said, “We want to do precision medicine and treat each patient as an individual. If we miss data or we don’t have the full picture about the patient, this approach fails. Having all of the data accessible, we can apply clinical decision support systems and AI-based applications that really help us to…provide them the best treatment we can.”
Another example is the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), which has led the world in cutting-edge research to increase global understanding of the disease for more than 100 years. Roel Sijstermans, Head of IT, Netherlands Cancer Institute said, “Whether its analysis of cancer cells or patient scans, NKI strongly believes that innovations like AI will play an increasingly important role in the future of cancer research, diagnostics, and treatment.”
The new digital frontier for the healthcare sector
Information and data that is not shared prevents innovation. Healthcare providers need to create a patient-centred approach that encourages data sharing and innovation and builds trust so that patients feel taken seriously and confident that their critical and sensitive data is in good hands. Only then will it be possible, through data sharing and new technologies such as AI, to come up with new insights that will, at the end of the day, benefit us all. In that regard, irrespective of the department, disease or demographic, the answer is in the DNA.
To find out how VMware can help you deliver a more patient-centric approach with your healthcare to better enable information sharing and build trust, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.