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Is the public ready for data-driven healthcare?

Constance Williams  Published 2017.09.25  11:23  Updated 2017.10.13 11:18

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Medical professionals are looking into new perspectives to data-driven healthcare, such as precision medicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. Are the public ready to accept these services, too?

Academics and doctoral students discussed these issues during “2017 EIBLE-KHIDI International Conference” at S-Tower in Seoul Saturday.

The experts voiced out that rising costs, chronic illness, an aging population and a shortage of professionals are making healthcare payers and providers turning to data and analytics, at the seminar co-organized by Ewha Institute for Biomedical Law & Ethics and Korea Health Industry Development Institute.

Large medical institutions are treating data as a strategic asset and putting processes and systems in place that help healthcare professionals improve decision-making and drive actionable results, they said.

Experts answer questions during the “2017 EIBLE-KHIDI International Conference” at S-Tower in downtown Seoul Saturday.

Realizing that big data can help promote the “highest attainable standard” of health, a recognized right in international human right terms, Professor Carole Peterson of the University of Hawaii urged governments to fulfill this right by using big data to improve healthcare outcomes while increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

“Accessible data and online health communities also can empower individuals to take more control over their health, including more access to remote communities and less developed nations,” Peterson said. “Big data also helps us to monitor and control the spread of infectious diseases.”

The professor gave an example with the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak, where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used BioMosaic, a tool that merges health, population and movement data to predict the spread of the disease. BioMosaic enabled CDC to identify the at-risk populations and created a map of the diaspora population moving from affected areas.

“But we also understand that big data presents significant risks -- data mining and ‘re-identification’ techniques can lead to violations of privacy and increased opportunities for discrimination,” Peterson said. “Governments should, therefore, review their anti-discrimination statutes and amend them, if necessary, to ensure that all forms of disability discrimination are prohibited, including discrimination based upon an assessment that a person is at risk of developing a disability in the future.”

Another expert touched on the issue of precision medicine.

“Precision medicine is an emerging clinical strategy, as it weighs the differences between individuals to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and even aftercare,” said Lee Man-yeong, a Ph. D. student in digital health at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Health Sciences & Technology (SAIHST). “It is an unmet need to lead patient-generated health data based on participation in the study for implementing precision medicine.”

Lee added that it is necessary to ensure high protection in accessing, using and sharing data, and to help participants to have a positive attitude to the study. “There are many studies about public awareness toward cancer clinical trials, particularly genetic testing,” he said. “Although we can guess the public awareness toward precision medicine from these studies, there is no progress in Korea.”

Lee noted that to maximize participation in precision medicine, appropriate information should be provided for each group’s expectations or concerns. “It is also fundamental to secure channels that are accessible as much as possible. For this, assistance and support at the national level are needed,” he said.

Tjasa Zapusek, a Bologna Program postgraduate student of the University of Copenhagen, presented her ideas of AI in medicine and confidentiality of data.

“Until the 60s, doctors enjoyed high levels of power, especially in the field of psychiatry,” Zapusek said. “The right to privacy, including the protection of sensitive data relating to health is now protected. Everyone has the right to access the data concerning him/her, and the right to have it rectified.”

Presuming the accordance of the patient’s will and not violating any right of privacy, doctors and other healthcare professionals need to have access to the history of individual’s medical treatments, since it enables those to exchange information, opinions, and knowledge, she stressed.

“On the one hand, we have robots,” Zapusek said, “capable of providing optimal medical treatment, and able to communicate with patients in a different way, but still effective. Patient’s medical files serve as robot’s workbooks, enabling them to put their technical knowledge, stored on the discs in practice.

“For years, robot’s involvement in medical procedures has been limited to ‘robotic-assisted surgeries,’” Zapusek went on to say. “However, current scientific achievements present completely different scenarios, where medical operations can be performed 100 percent autonomously by a robot. Sooner or later, robots will no longer be considered simple tools in the hands of the owner, the user or the manufacturer.”

connie@docdocdoc.co.kr

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