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All-You-Can-Eat Health Data

Posted on December 20, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Casinos can teach the healthcare industry a thing or two about influencing customer behavior. So says this interesting feature in California Healthline this week.

Think about it – if it’s your first time, and you lose 500$ straight off the bat, you’re not likely to head to the nearest ATM to withdraw more cash. The people who run casinos understand this, the article quote California Healthcare Foundation CEO Mark Smith as saying. That’s why casinos have loyalty card systems in place – so they can not only know what you’re doing, and to influence your behavior in a way that benefits the casino.

A casino doesn’t necessarily want a first-time customer to lose money right away, he said, because that customer becomes unhappy and won’t come back. “So if you’re a first-time customer and you’re down 150 bucks, someone in the casino will slide up to you and ask you how you’re doing,” Smith said. “And maybe get you a comp meal or a drink.” The casino intervenes before customers reach the decision point to leave.

For the healthcare industry, the holy grail is patient data. If there is enough patient data, the innovators can come along, interpret it, and hopefully healthcare providers can nudge patient behavior enough to make a change in overall health.

The most interesting thing about the article, to me personally, was reading about how data that has been made publicly available can be used for interesting uses. The article talks how data made public by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fuels such varied things as the Weather Channel, mobile weather apps and so on.

And guess what? All that can happen to healthcare as well. Much public health information is available for access by the general public, and part of the job of HHS has been to make innovators aware that public health data is now available. The article talked about Bing using Hospital Compare data to provide users with hospital comarison statistics.

I followed some of the links on the article and finally ended up at the site, where as promised, a treasure trove of data is publicly available – just waiting for the right technogeek to come along and do something cool with it. Could that innovator be you? Go check it out!

Who Owns Patient Data?

Posted on September 26, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Recently, on The Healthcare Blog, there was a really interesting post by Dr. Marya Silberberg about why patient lab data should be liberated. She recommends lab results be sent to patients at the same time that they’re sent to doctors. Dr. Silberberg does an admirable job of looking at the patient data issue from both sides. From the patient’s perspective, it is really not that hard to understand. If you’ve ever transferred your (paper) records from one doctor to another, or you’ve spent a month or more waiting for your doctor’s office to call you with their interpretation of lab test results, you’ve known the pain. It’s your data, about your body, your health, and you really have no way to access it if you have something of a grinch gatekeeping the records at your doctor’s office.

I’m no doctor, but I get you too. There are way too many paranoid, entitled people in the world, and chances are they’re your patients. Handing patients their lab records is the best way to make sure your office is inundated with callers demanding to talk to the doctor right now, and many of them will just be non-emergency calls.

Having said that, I wasn’t a huge fan of commenter Dr Mike’s response to the post:

“If I ordered the test, the results should be returned to me first, if you ordered the test, the results can come to you. So go order your own lab tests and then you won’t have to wait for me to get through that mountain of paper on my desk. Not sure your insurer will want to play along as you play doctor though

Part of the problem is that patients don’t understand that I am not on retainer for them. In the good ol’ days the docs cared for their friends and neighbor’s and community, and had a personal and financial interest in each individual. But today I don’t have a contract with you, I have one with your insurer, and together the two of us have pretty much locked you out of the decision process, and you have allowed this to happen.”


Whoa, them’s fighting words. Patient data access doesn’t have to be an adversarial experience. If you, the doctor, are spending an inordinate amount of time explaining lab results to patients, it’s only fair you be compensated for your consultancy in some way. And you, the patient, must stop thinking of access to patient data as a zero-cost right you can exercise. A tiered insurance plan offering could very well take care of phone-consultancy and patient-lab-reporting costs. If I or a loved one had a condition that required me to look over lab reports and such, I would happily pay a few dollars extra a month for that privilege. And for all the concerns about how the average user can’t understand what the lab results say, it’s surely not impossible in this day and age that lab reports sent to non-medical recipients be in human readable form.

Check out the post here.