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How health app data can help healthcare

More and more people are using health-related technology and collecting data about their own health via apps and sensors. Down the line, this can create favourable conditions for good, personalised healthcare.

For more than a hundred years, when you felt poorly, you visited a doctor. After an examination, you received treatment and, in the best case, a cure. Nowadays, the trend has increasingly shifted towards personalised care, where the healthcare system wants to involve the patient to a greater extent in the course of their treatment. A new type of relationship has evolved between healthcare and the patient. But we are facing an even bigger change. By collecting health data ourselves, we can keep track of our health before we become patients, while we are patients, and after we have been patients.

- “This means that the healthcare system, in addition to providing medical care, also has new conditions for providing preventive healthcare,” says Helena Linge, medical researcher at RISE.

Data offering a better overview of health status

In meetings with patients, it can be difficult for a healthcare provider to get a full overview of a patient’s health status. There is not always time to ask all possible questions, and some of the patient’s figures may be below the thresholds and remain undetected, or the patient is not able to get answers to specific questions.

- “But now this information now exists,” says Linge. “Healthcare can get a more holistic view of the individual through the combination of its own data and health technology. This can help us maintain good health, the chronically ill can receive support in how they should deal with their illness, and we as individuals gain in-depth knowledge of how we function.”

Linge emphasises that this requires structure and a serious analysis regarding where the value of the collected data lies – for whom and when:

- “When we let the fields approach each other and by being curious about these questions, we can eventually develop subject areas in medicine.

- “Interpreting the data also requires dialogue. It’s important to understand that a single series of measurements does not necessarily say much about a person’s health. Multiple parameters must be added together to obtain an overview.”

For the collected data to be worth analysing, the health technology must be first-rate and the data must be collected in a structured manner.

Imagine receiving a daily report with advice and reminders based on complete data about yourself. It would be like having your own house doctor

Protecting personal privacy

Another issue relates to how personal privacy can be protected when several operators want to collect and share individuals’ data. Private operators, both healthcare providers and app companies, now exist in this sector and are important to include in this context, not least because of their level of innovation and their knowledge of patients’ wishes.

- “Protecting personal privacy is still fundamental, otherwise we risk destroying trust in both the healthcare system and research in the long run,” warns Linge.

- “At the beginning of a change, before quality controls and regulations are introduced, it can sometimes feel like the Wild West. In this case, certification of companies, products, processes, and data sharing can contribute to a secure and more unified armada of solutions. Here at RISE, we can help with, among other things, usability tests, AI, data analysis, and secure data sharing. RISE is an enabler that can provide assistance on the road ahead.

Privacy-protected data sharing

Linge underscores RISE’s credibility.

- “RISE is a reliable party with resources for secure data environments. We are now looking at developing privacy-protected data sharing so that more companies can share their services and individuals can share their data without worrying about privacy breaches.”

When Linge looks to the future, she envisions a new reality where our self-collected health data is explicitly included in the digital ecosystem around the individual and the healthcare system:

- “It’s crucial to find out more about the value of having more data. But imagine - receiving a daily report with advice and reminders based on complete data about yourself. It would be like having your own house doctor. With the Internet of Things, perhaps even our homes can help cover some of the needs. And for the healthcare system it will be possible to access your data and perhaps help you in your home, or before your visit. More integrated data use also develops good conditions for research in collaboration with industry. The goal is, of course, a longer and healthier life for everyone.”

Published: 2022-08-07