Congratulations to Solver Daniel Castro for submitting the winning solution to the InnoCentive-Economist Healthcare Information Economy Challenge. The Challenge asked for new and exciting ideas for business models that would support or enable a healthcare information economy for the benefit of patients, care givers and manufacturers of healthcare products. Daniel's solution is below.
Information has the potential to radically transform health care. Most of the investments that we have been making in health IT have been to improve the efficiency of back-office operations and to improve quality by ensuring that doctors have the right information about the right patient at the right time. But I think when we look at the potential of health IT we will find that these two components only make up a small piece of the pie. The larger, more transformative, piece will be using IT in health care for knowledge discovery and medical research. But to do this, we need a vibrant health information economy.
My proposal focuses on solving two related problems: 1) how to aggregate and use medical data on an individual level, and 2) how to do this on a national level.
First, at an individual level the problem is that an individual’s medical data is in many places including with different doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and health insurers. We need in health care what Mint.com is for personal finance: a meaningful entity to assemble all of the different data points from different sources. Information-based sectors of the economy often depend on data intermediaries to collect and aggregate data. One way to do this in health care is by using health record data banks (HRDBs). HRDBs are data repositories of a patient’s complete medical history. They are more than a mere personal health record; instead they are the authoritative source of patient health information. In this model, patients or their health insurers would pay a small fee to the HRDB to store, maintain and manage their medical data. HRDBs, in turn, would pay health care providers a transaction fee for every “deposit” of information following a health care encounter. Patients would be free to select the HRDB they believe provides them the best quality and value. HRDBs would compete for customers by developing innovative tools and applications to allow patients to better manage their personal health information. Competition would also help promote high levels of security and privacy, and allow customers who place more value on these items to pay for premium privacy and security controls. HRDBs create the market incentives to allow data aggregation by better aligning the costs and benefits of investing in health IT.
Second, we need to take additional steps to ensure the data banks do not create data silos. Legislative mandates should require that patients be allowed to share their medical data with third parties, including doctors, researchers, insurers and medical “apps”, and that patients have data portability so that they can easily take their data to a new HRDB if they want. In addition, we need national policies that incentivize, and at times require, patients to share aggregated and de-identified medical data for research and allow the creation of national patient registries to enable individuals to easily find and participate in relevant medical studies.
The challenge we face today is not how to generate data, but how to build the right data infrastructure to collect, analyze and use this information to create economic opportunities and improve quality of life.