Roughly every fifty years, healthcare experiences significant disruptive changes leading to a healthcare revolution in clinical care. In the 1870s, the germ theory of disease, antiseptic techniques, and advances in anesthesia, made life-saving surgeries possible and drove significant and lasting advances in public health. In the early twentieth century, a few dozen visionary clinicians laid the foundation for modern clinical care by designing the initial physical layout and operational structure of the modern hospital, creating the basic four-year medical school curriculum
What’s Coming: Healthcare powered by data
Collectively, these developments have laid the groundwork for data-driven healthcare, a central component of the next revolution. In the process of managing the health and well-being of millions of patients, data-driven healthcare can be described as the efficient use of vast quantities of data collected in an ongoing effort to enhance the quality, efficacy, and cost of care. Data-driven healthcare also provides the potential to provide highly personalized care.
A central fundamental feature of evidence-based treatment will remain the randomized controlled trial (RCT). The availability of large quantities of clinical and organizational data obtained in the care delivery process, however, provides significant opportunities for learning and improving the quality, protection, reliability and cost of care. There is potentially a synergy between the RCT method and broad studies in population quality improvement.
Each RCT is a long, costly process that can take years to complete, and because of the very limited sample populations usually studied, there are often concerns about how generalizable the results of an RCT are. On the other hand, reviewing vast volumes of data obtained in the care delivery process for patients with a particular condition (e.g., diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure) will help assess the generalizability of the findings of an RCT while also enhancing the results.
In essence, data-driven healthcare provides the ability to turn the care setting into a data-driven learning environment, an environment in which clinicians work in a highly supportive and rational system of enhancement of care that helps them to manage care processes optimally while gathering knowledge to facilitate continuous learning and improvement over time.