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Patient-Generated Health Data

  • August 08, 2016|
  • 1 year ago

by Tom Foley

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Director, Global Health Solution Strategy

Health consumerism is driving a market of wearable devices, new care delivery options, and greater patient engagement. As a result, a new form of health data is emerging, Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD), which is data recorded or collected by or from a patient, caregiver, or family member.

Pros and Cons

A benefit of PGHD is that it can provide a holistic view of a patient’s daily health between appointments as well as greater insight into patient populations. PGHD also enables physicians and patients to establish an individualized health regimen and track progress to reach or maintain wellness over time.

Health leaders have indicated they are impressed by what PGHD can offer them. A recent study by Accenture found 73 percent of organizations believed PGHD and big data analytics would benefit their return on investment, while 85 percent agreed that using wearable devices could improve patient engagement.

However, one main concern from health professionals is the data’s provenance, or chronology of ownership. In regards to patient identification, there is little control in verifying who a consumer-purchased device is actually monitoring. There may also be complicated systems integration requirements for electronic health records (EHRs) and data analytics applications.

Another concern is privacy and data protection. Currently, consumer wearables are not subject to the same privacy and security requirements as provider-issued devices.

Federal Incentives to Get It Right

To address interoperability concerns, Stage 3 Meaningful Use rules, part of a stimulus introduced in 2015 for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which will soon be superseded by MACRA, are helping developers ensure their systems are qualified for federal EHR Incentive Programs. These programs emphasize the importance of data integration and how it can help clinical decision-making as well as patient-physician communication.

The Growing Market of Wearable Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)

There’s definitely a potential market for PGHD users. The International Data Corporation reports that worldwide shipments of wearable devices, including devices like Fitbit and Google Glass, will reach 110 million by the end of 2016, a 38.2 percent growth over the previous year. By 2020, the forecast for devices shipped is expected to double.

Retailers are also jumping on board. This past November, Walgreens released its Walgreens Connect app, in partnership with MDLIVE. Target has also launched a digital health agenda offering in-store wellness sections called Connect Health, which enables shoppers to track their personal health information on mobile devices. In tandem with the development of the internet of things (IoT), the market for health apps and devices for remote monitoring will continue to expand – making way for the more specific, Internet of Medical Things.

Industry Initiatives and Support

Patient portals are a key starting point for digital patient engagement and interoperability with PGHD. Basic functions should include the ability to make payments and access health information, like test results. Advanced services could include online registration, insurance eligibility, prescription refills, and more.

At the 2015 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) conference, Rosemarie Nelson, a principal with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, spoke about the evident promise of patient portals to streamline workflow and cut costs. “I think the best way to get into an EHR is to start with portal technology,” Nelson said. “Practices should engage patients and get them to start registering and submitting PMFSH [past medical, family, and social history] online.”

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Accenture announced a partnership at HIMSS16 that will “create a framework for collecting and using patient generated health data in both research and clinical care.” The partners explained that this initiative was an important first step to establishing standards that would make PGHD more interoperable. The FDA has also announced plans to take a leading role in shaping a safe, collaborative environment for research.

How to Approach PGHD

As recognized by American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), there is a three-step approach to incorporating PGHD in a way that will serve both patient and provider needs:

·Outline a strategic framework
·Develop policies and procedures
·Collaborate with IT team and EHR vendors

This not-so-far-off future of PGHD integration will bring your organization more value if you are prepared for it. Begin exploring opportunities to introduce a phased approach to digital patient engagement, and learn how your practice can best benefit from the incorporation of PGHD.


1. Patient Generated Health Data. September 30, 2015.
2. Tech Firms Refocus to Address Stage 3 Meaningful-Use Rules. Modern Healthcare. October 10, 2015.
3. 73% of Orgs See ROI from PGHD, Healthcare Big Data Analytics. Health IT Analytics. June 24, 2015.
4. IDC Forecasts Worldwide Shipments of Wearables to Surpass 200 Million in 2019, Driven by Strong Smartwatch Growth and the Emergence of Smarter Watches. International Data Corporation. March 17, 2016.
5. Including Patient-Generated Health Data in Electronic Health Records. AHIMA. February 2015.
6. Competition Heats Up for Patient-Generated Health Data. Modern Healthcare. November 12, 2015.
7. How Target’s In-Store Clinics Are Reinventing Retail Wellness. Business 2 Community. May 10, 1016.
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