Do more with less for better clinical outcomes: why health innovators should embrace GDPR

Everybody is, by now, aware of the changes to data protection regulations (GDPR) coming into force on 25 May. They have been met with mixed responses so far; implementing sound privacy protections weights on costs without adding value, some protest. Here, Changing Health, one of the companies on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, explains what the changing rules could mean for digital health companies.

That isn’t the case. It prompts organisations to implement privacy by design – building good data practices into business systems from the ground up. The requirements are two-pronged. First, ensuring users have given full and informed consent for organisations to hold their personally identifiable data and second, ensuring such data is held securely.

For many organisations, it may mean a complete overhaul of the way personal data is processed and stored. Some individuals will opt out. So why not treat GDPR as an opportunity, once its requirements have been fulfilled, to take advantage of a cleaner, more focussed database of consumers who have opted in?

Retaining only the personal data of those who have opted in gives organisations a clearer picture of who their most engaged consumers are. By profiling those individuals’ geographies, preferences, lifestyles and personal traits, products and services can be specifically designed for the people who need them most.

For healthcare innovators, such profiling allows for highly-personalised solutions to drive improved patient engagement and better health outcomes. It brings precision medicine – the approach to treatment and prevention that takes individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle into account – closer to a reality.

As consulting firm PwC puts it, “the most sophisticated health companies will be able to segment their customer populations in ways that acknowledge demographic differences and critical clinical, behavioural and preference differences.” A survey of leading healthcare CEOs, conducted by the same company, suggested the vast majority agree: 95% are exploring better ways of using and managing big data. A one size fits all approach, basing treatment and prevention strategies on the “average” person, will become a thing of the past.

Take, for example, telemedicine. With good data, patient populations can be segmented so communications can be hyper-targeted to reach individuals at precisely the right time to be most effective, maximising medication adherence, improving self-management and keeping face-to-face appointments to a minimum. Patients will be better engaged with their health and healthcare to the benefit of everybody.

Complemented by physiological patient data from wearables (sleep, blood sugar, blood pressure), this approach gives GPs, nurses and other care staff the full picture they need to consistently predict potential crises and avert them before they take hold.

For Changing Health, such data insights could determine individuals’ risk for metabolic syndrome to tailor-make a lifestyle change programme for each user in seconds. It could predict the risk of a hypo for users with Type 2 diabetes at any given time, drawing on data gathered from users’ glucose monitors to provide advance warning and showing users what they need to do to bring their blood glucose levels back in line.

There’s no doubt that healthcare will soon become one of the world’s most data-intensive industries, using ever more sophisticated technologies to predict patient behaviour and improve the population’s health. The nimblest organisations will embrace GDPR as a chance to get ahead. This is just the beginning.