Why we need to unlock health data to beat disease worldwide

Article by Takanori Fujita, Masayasu Okajima and Hiroyuki Miuchi: “The digital revolution in healthcare offers the promise of better health and longer lives for people around the world. New digital tools can help doctors and patients to predict, prevent and treat disease, opening the door to personalised medical care that is cost-efficient and highly effective.

Digitization across the entire healthcare sector — from hospital operations to the production of medical devices, vaccines and other pharmaceuticals — stands to benefit everyone, through improved efficiency at medical institutions, better care at home and stronger support for everyday health and wellbeing.

The essential ingredient in digital healthcare is data. Developers and service providers need health data to build and deploy effective solutions. So far, unfortunately, the potential benefits of digital healthcare have been under-realized, in large part because of data chokepoints…

It should go without saying that the ‘reward’ for sharing data is better health. Lifestyle-related diseases, which are more prevalent in ageing populations, often do not become symptomatic until they have progressed to a dangerous level. That makes timely monitoring and assessment crucial. In a world where people are living longer and longer— ‘100-year societies,’ as we say in Japan — data-enabled early detection is perhaps the best tool we have to stave off age-related health crises.

Abstract arguments, however, rarely convince people to consent to sharing personal data. Special efforts are needed to show specific, individual benefits and make people feel a tangible sense of control.

In Japan, the city of Arao is conducting an experiment to enable patients and their families to check information on electronic health records (EHRs) using their smartphones when they visit affiliated hospitals. Test results, prescribed medications and other information can be monitored. The system is expected to reduce costs for municipalities that are struggling to fund medical and nursing care for growing elderly populations. The money saved can be diverted to programs that help people live healthier lives, creating a virtuous cycle….Digital healthcare isn’t just a matter for patients and medical professionals. Lifestyle data with implications for health is broadly distributed, so the non-medical field needs to be involved as well. Takamatsu, another Japanese city, is attempting to address this difficult issue by building a common data collaboration infrastructure for the public and private sectors.

SOMPO Light Vortex, a subsidiary of SOMPO Holdings, a Japanese insurance and nursing care company, has created an app for Covid-19 vaccination certification and personal health records (PHRs) that is connected to Takamatsu’s municipal data infrastructure. Combining a range of data on health and lifestyle patterns in a trusted platform overseen by local government is expected to offer benefits in areas ranging from disaster prevention to wellbeing…(More)”.