As we move to the Internet of Things (IOT), we are also rapidly moving into the Internet of Me, the ability to track oneself 24 hours per day for a multitude of different measures. Where I am, what I’m doing, exercise, weight, blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar, stress, who I’m with and on and on. The value of these data to ones self cannot be underestimated, nor its potential value to science.
Link your phones GPS to an EMR/PHR , connect your insurance carrier’s coverage to a pharmacy locator service and their scheduler, add an understanding of a person’s likes and one could get a message while walking around town stating that your flu shot is due, there’s a Walgreens around the corner, they’re covered by your health plan, the shots free, they have an opening now, and your wife would like you to get one. Haven’t seen it, but probably being built right now.
With all the potential upside to this information, there is a downside and its real. Aggregating data for my benefit is good, the problem is there are always unscrupulous people, companies or organizations that choose to use this data for their own best interest, often against ours.
How about creating a slight variation on the flu shot scenario and the ability to locate individuals and link health conditions etc.
One person has been exposed to Ebola and is being monitored by Public Health and another person is picked up on their GPS as being in very close proximity for a period of time to the person being monitored. It may be a good idea for the second person to have some awareness of a possible exposure and perhaps place a flag in that second person’s file so that should they develop signs of an infection and show up at an ER, they get help quickly by letting the ER staff know of a possible exposure to Ebola. But what if we change the disease state to an STD, perhaps HIV/AIDS, or track time at a bar, non adherence to medications, what you pulled from your refrigerator? Might an insurer seek to somehow find a way to drop the person or might somebody post this information or use it in other inappropriate ways? Or the reverse, might a broker get activity and other health data and target the healthier people for enrollment to a health plan. This scenario is a modern-day variation on a few Florida HMO brokers in the early 90’s who sought to enroll seniors living above the first floor in buildings without elevators.
How we attempt to protect this data will be critical, but there will always be bad apples, hackers and others that seek to take advantage of this information and we have already seen many examples of health care data being accessed.
Before we get too far down the interconnected, constantly monitored road, we need to think of the person. The person should clearly own the data. The role of the government and health care systems should be to develop the means, legal and otherwise to protect the person and their data and allow the person to decide who and what can be accessed, used, connected, shared etc. Furthermore the person should have easy access to all of their data, see the No MU without ME Campaign.
Health Data has a lot of value and if there is a way to make money at your expense you can be sure someone, somewhere is already working on a system to get your data for their best interest, not necessarily yours.