Why Closed Loop Data Can Disrupt Health Care

The future of health care, according to Wired, will be built on three pillars -- data, technology, and design. So last week in lower Manhattan, the magazine's editors gathered an eclectic mix of physicians, technologists and data scientists to explore innovations in these three pillars.

Like last year's conference, this year's Wired: Data | Life conference had its own share of "oohs" and "aahs" - like MC10's biostamp, a smart sensor as thin as a band-aid or Theranos' blood testing kit that requires just a droplet of blood to run a full complement of lab tests.

But, it is the data collected by these devices, apps and even in person at a doctor's office or pharmacy, that provide the biggest opportunity to alter how, when and where we test, diagnose and manage our health.

For decades, financial services and retailers have long known - and benefitted - from the power of data. Not just any data, but big data. They've used it to determine our credit worthiness, our likelihood to buy specific products and services, and even our health state. (Remember the infamous case of Target knowing a teenage girl was pregnant even before her dad?)

The savviest of them invested heavily in building and leveraging closed loop data - data that understands the totality of our transactions and behaviors, throughout our lifecycle -- including user generated data from social activities like location check-ins.

This closed loop notion is something that Rushika Fernandopulle, CEO and co-founder of Iora Health, understands. Iora Health, which provides primary care to a number of plan sponsors, is building a technology platform incorporating patient data from doctors visits, pharmacy transactions and health insurance claims to deliver a higher, more effective level of care.

But, as robust as Iora Health's data will be, it is still limited given current and future trends in health. Consider:

  • A majority of consumers already track their health and wellness: 69% of American adults according to a study by Pew Research Center currently track their weight, diet or exercise routines regularly; a third (33%) track health indicators like blood pressure.
  • Consumers will increasingly shift tracking from analog to mobile: In 2012, approximately one-fifth of US adults used a digital method to track their health and wellness data; by 2017 according to industry analyst Research and Markets, 50% of all mobile users will track their health and wellness via a mobile device.
  • Wearable device adoption will explode: In 2011, 14 million wearable devices were shipped worldwide; by 2016 IMS Research predicts 170 million wearable devices will be shipped -- with 60% of them (i.e., 102 million) in the health and wellness category alone.

These trends will contribute to a growing proliferation of user-generated data just begging to be mined.

It would be a shame not to build databases capable of incorporating user generated health data. Just imagine what Iora Health physicians could learn about their patients if they allowed them to systemically contribute their own health tracking activities.

While issues of privacy and value exchange will need to be addressed, they are not insurmountable. Again, the financial and retail sectors have grappled with these very issues. The difference, though, is that the value exchange for most of us is significantly higher in the health arena than anywhere else. After all, who wouldn't want to share their data to be healthier? It's certainly more valuable than a 10% off coupon.