Challenge: Consumer Healthware and the Glut of Unstructured Patient Data

By Peggy Salvatore


Remember the good old days, when times were simpler, and health technology was all about electronic patient records? Not today. The world of health technology is about telemedicine, wearables, data collection and privacy.

The vast amount of health technology available to consumers in the privacy of their own homes may, in fact, render moot any attempt to impose controls and restrictions on patient information and care. If creativity and innovation win this round, the patient should come out ahead. The road to lower cost, higher quality and greater access may very well lead right through the work being done in the private sector.

Instead of working within a prescribed system, consumers may get where they want to go with at-home diagnostic tests, monitoring devices, and wellness apps all without all the hassle of dealing with a cumbersome, expensive professional labyrinth of products and services. As the private consumer health system grows, the old system may become extinct less by design than by simply having outlived its usefulness.

By case in point, I offer a sampling of news items from just the last few days:

  • The FDA is considering whether your smartphone needs to be regulated as a medical device. See item #7.
  • AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released a 52-page draft report to provide a framework and an evidence map of the available research regarding the impact of telehealth on health outcomes and healthcare utilization. Read the story here.
  • Fitness trackers improve health. Read the story here.
  • “There is currently no universal standard for the de-identification of protected health information. However, earlier this year, HITRUST—a healthcare industry stakeholder coalition to improve cybersecurity—created a de-identification framework, offering guidance, standards and controls to better understand the processes of de-identifying data.” Read more here.
  • The NIH is taking notice. It has appointed someone to head up point-of-care technology strategy to figure out how to integrate all this consumer-generated information into the patient record. This article has the details.
  • Senior-based home health tools keep the elderly independent. Read more hereInteroperability Roadmap

The trend is that regulators are attempting to ensure safety, interoperability and security of this overwhelming quantity of potentially valuable information. One of the great challenges is how to harness so much unstructured data for analysis so that it becomes useful and actionable information. The collection methods and tools will be increasingly diverse as the consumer market for healthware increases.

Expect unanticipated turns of events.


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