I just read an interesting article by Florian Fisch about the future possibilities of health data in the online journal MedicalXpress. The opening line really caught my attention: “In the future, doctors won’t be concerned about treating just a diseased organ – they’ll be using a mass of data to get a holistic view of the state of their patients.” What started as a hopeful article, changed into one describing the obstacles ahead for putting data based medicine into practice.
The article goes on to describe a Swiss initiative, modeled after Scandinavian, EU and US initiatives all with the same goal- better, more personalized healthcare. How do they plan
to do this? It seems like an impossible ideal- in conflict with what healthcare seems to be heading towards as costs spirals upward- and the means to pay for these costs spirals downward.
Databases will sort out symptoms, treatments, successes and failures and suggest therapy, treatment and medicines, which have been shown (or at least have been reported) to work in similar cases. The article cautions that what works in one hospital in one country- may not work very well in another. This can be due to differences in how symptoms and results are defined, or any other number of factors. It won’t be easy- One HIV study has been ongoing for 28 years- and has issues with statistics “distorted by economic factors, such as codifying invoices…” as one Swiss study reports.
Government and ethical standards limit information sharing. Pharmaceuticals looking for higher profits, unpublished research studies, and badly organized data collection all add to the “Jungle of data” available, making it difficult for doctors to make good, informed decisions about treatment because the data may itself be untrustworthy.
MediCounsel does not rely on statistics and data alone. The whole concept of this service has been to provide clients with reliable insight from personal consultation and communication between the patient and their consultant, who works on their behalf to access the best specialists in the required specialties. Most of the teams of specialists know and respect each other, and they communicate directly as they work towards their recommendations for the client. It is an unmatched service, which has proven in many cases to be the difference in finding a cure or better outcome for their patients and their physicians.