Jeff Rowe, Editor, Future Care

Jeff Rowe is the editor of Future Care and a veteran healthcare journalist and blogger who has reported extensively on initiatives to improve the healthcare system at the local, regional and national level.

Access to new and different data is changing the meaning of 'healthcare'

Illustration of sick man in bedIncorporating ever more data into healthcare decisions may serve the specific needs of both individual patients and larger populations. But it's also impacting the basic definition of "healthcare."
July 18, 2014 AT 2:22 PM

Information changes things.

As banal truisms go, that one surely competes for the top of the list.  But it seems an apt way to point to the fact that as the range of information considered relevant to healthcare decisions continues to expand, so, too, expands our understanding of what healthcare really is.

One prominent discussion, for example, revolves around ensuring that patients, newly armed with previously inaccessible data, are a prominent part of any and all healthcare discussions.

According to British patient advocate Roz Davies, "In developing a future healthcare system we need to understand the stakeholders. We need to be clear and honest about what are the different stakeholders' current and desired levels of power and interests, legitimacy and sense of urgency."

But in considering what a "patient-centered" system should look like in the 21st century, she goes beyond just making sure patients are at the table.  "A focus on prevention should be incorporated into a 21st century patient-centred care," she says, as "it is clearly better for health and for healthcare services if people are able to avoid or minimise the risks of getting long term conditions in the first place."

Finally, on an institutional level, Davies adds, "21st century patient-centred care will need to be integrated, involving all stakeholders in healthcare, especially if considering the impact on health of the social determinants of health, e.g. housing, education and employment."

While, in Davies' view, all of these angles and more should be part of the discussion moving forward, she moves beyond even the most recent boundaries of many healthcare conversations by suggesting that "the process of development of a new approach and culture is as important as the end product or service because this is about changing how humans interact and relate to each other."

By the end, Davies has wrapped her thoughts back around to a plug for the importance of digital technology in transforming the delivery of healthcare – "Finally, we have an incredible tool which is currently undervalued and underused: digital health," she says. – but what's perhaps more thought-provoking is the fact that, in referencing an array of data sources (as well as potential uses of those sources) that have not always been part of healthcare discussions, Davies has joined the ranks of those who are changing what we're talking about when we talk about healthcare.