Healthcare is one of those things that we often take for granted. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That motto seems to work so long as we remain healthy most of the time. The challenge is, nobody knows when that assumption might break. And, as COVID-19 is teaching us, anything can happen anytime, anywhere.
While planning for the worst-case scenario may seem like a costly and complex endeavor for any organization , it’s essential to be prepared for the unexpected. That’s especially true for the health and pharmaceutical industries who are on the front lines in the event of a pandemic. But it isn’t always easy to predict the questions that will need to be answered such as:
- Where and how will the outbreak start? How fast will it spread and can we track it?
- How can we diagnose and treat it?
- Is there a vaccine that will work? If not, how long would it take to develop one?
Fortunately, digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the internet of things (IoT) are helping to address questions like these by connecting disparate data dots to yield better insights for improved decision making and planning. And keeping patient information safe while connecting those dots requires an interconnected, secure digital ecosystem. Here are three ways AI + interconnected distributed data is helping to drive better health outcomes.
1. Speeding up drug discovery and smarter response
There are a number of areas where AI is already helping to advance positive outcomes in the current pandemic such as:
- Disease surveillance and tracking hotspots
- Detecting infections in travelers and high-risk populations
- Speeding up diagnoses with automated image analysis
- Accelerating drug discovery and vaccine development
To effectively uncover relationships between different knowledge domains, AI requires access to large, diverse data sets. While data sharing may have opened up quite a bit for the COVID-19 outbreak, it is typically a challenge in industries like health and pharma where data is often collected and stored in different places and considered to be highly sensitive. But by leveraging an interconnected distributed data architecture, participants in digital health ecosystems such as providers, insurers, governments, researchers and more can share patient information safely and compliantly. And as the secure exchange of health data grows, it will pave the way for medical breakthroughs we can only imagine now. As a colleague of mine recently said, “The cure for cancer is already out there – we just have to find it.”
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To effectively uncover relationships between different knowledge domains, AI requires access to large, diverse data sets.
2. Facilitating future digital health innovations
Like everything else in our daily lives, health-oriented devices are becoming more connected and data-driven. And, while it may be hard to imagine what value a connected watch may have to our overall health, the digital platforms where these devices interconnect are becoming essential hubs of collaboration and innovation with their own inherent value. In the future, your doctor may be able to tap into data on your physical activity and sleeping patterns to determine how frequently you need to come in for a check-up or design health services tailored to you.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January provided a glimpse of the digital health innovations we may see in the near future. A few that were in the spotlight included assistive robots helping older adults, smart wearables and clothing that integrate with mobile apps to monitor your health, remote diagnostic tools and more. For these innovations to deliver their intended benefits, patient data must be shared and exchanged between patients, devices, health providers, insurers and more.
In an ideal world, each of us would have basic home health diagnostic equipment that would connect to our individual electronic health record (EHR) system and our physician could routinely check on our well-being. Thinking a bit bigger, all that data could be analyzed as an aggregate set to detect how the population as a whole is reacting to certain outbreaks from the common influenza virus to HIV. It would be amazing if we could track communicable diseases more accurately using a system like this. All the technological pieces we need already exist, and it’s up to us to interconnect it.
At the same time, patient health data must be kept safe, secure and comply with government regulations. Distributed interconnection hubs at the edge can help speed collaboration among providers, patients and partners and enable localized, real-time data capture, processing and analysis for faster insights. These new insights can help advance digital health innovations such as precision medicine and custom treatment, telemedicine, new drug research and more.
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3. Integrating insights for preventative care and personalized medicine
Chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and more are on the rise. While typically incurable, they can often be prevented and managed for overall better outcomes. Personalized insights into patients’ health will enable precision well-being and real-time micro-interventions that allow doctors and medical researchers to get further ahead of sickness and catastrophic disease. Patient and research data can be collected from multiple sources, analyzed using AI, and shared in real time among various systems (physical and virtual) to enhance all aspects of personalized patient care and treatment development.
Supporting the movement of such massive amounts of data requires an interconnected healthcare data exchange. Such an exchange will need a unified, secure, and high-performing foundational platform on which to share the appropriate data – for example: provider to pharma, provider to payer, payer to provider, payer to claims processing, and so on.
A globally distributed interconnection platform, such as Platform Equinix®, securely integrates digital services, enables dynamic partner and ecosystem collaboration, and leverages data for more personalized care and treatment innovation. All of these benefits contribute to better patient experiences and improved outcomes.
You may also be interested in reading our other COVID-19 blogs.