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What are the Pros and Cons of Patient-Generated Health Data?

Patient-generated health data will have a positive impact on the industry if healthcare experts can develop methods for overcoming some of its challenges.

By Sara Heath

As the healthcare landscape changes shape, focusing more on patient-centered outcomes and more efficient use of services, it is important that providers engage the patient as a member of the care team and make joint treatment decisions.  

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Patient-generated health data (PGHD) is becoming one of the most important methods of improving this type of patient engagement, states a recent article from Health Affairs.  

Patient-reported outcome measures complement existing biological measures and physical examinations by providing standardized assessments of how patients function or feel with respect to their health, quality of life, mental well-being, or health care experience,” wrote a research team led by Danielle C. Lavallee, PharmD, PhD.

Patient-generated health data can and should be used in clinical practice, the research team stated. Through compliance with federal programs like meaningful use, or new value-based payment models such as bundled payments, providers can integrate patient-reported outcomes measures into their practices to improve quality of care.

“Providers report that patient-reported outcomes enhance patient engagement and shared decision making when they are integrated into clinical care, because the outcomes can provide an assessment of the patient’s experience of illness (symptoms, functioning, and well-being), values and preferences, and goals for health care over time,” the research team said.

However, before implementing a patient-generated health data strategy, healthcare providers and hospital leaders must understand both the pros and cons.

Clinical benefits of patient-generated health data

Among the several benefits of patient-generated health data is its effect on informed decision-making.

“The systematic capture of patient-reported outcomes can highlight patients’ experiences of symptoms related to a health condition or treatment. This information is important for assessing health and monitoring treatment effects,” the article authors explained.

Following treatment, patient-reported outcomes measures can help patients and providers monitor the results of a care encounter. From there, the care team may adjust the treatment plan, taking into account the actual effects the patient experiences.

The benefits of patient-generate health data are not limited to connecting patients and providers during a care encounter. Healthcare professionals can also use PGHD to monitor overall health and well-being, allowing for early detection of potential health conditions.

Using patient-generated health data to monitor general well-being aligns seamlessly with patient preferences, the researchers claimed. A byproduct of the surge in healthcare technology, patients tend to keep track of their own health using mHealth apps, and they are willing to share this data with their physicians.

Many patients see value in tracking important outcomes on their own, outside of the health care encounter, using a variety of new technologies available for this purpose,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, patients are increasingly interested in and willing to share this type of information, especially if they are aware that the information will be used in dialogue with the treating provider.”

Challenges to using patient-generated health data

Despite the numerous clinical benefits of patient-generate health data, the authors said there are several challenges the industry has yet to overcome.

These challenges are largely logistical, such as the lack of interoperability between patient devices and EHRs. The authors also noted the read-only nature of patient portals, stating that patients’ inability to contribute their data via the patient portal is limiting.

“Technology to support the seamless integration of the collection and review of patient-reported outcomes into patient care needs further development,” the research team said. “EHRs organize clinical data (lab and physical exam results and nursing notes), but many EHRs have limited capacity for direct patient input.”

Despite these challenges, the article authors maintained that patient-generated health data is integral in the evolving healthcare industry. As value-based payment models and patient-centered care initiatives gain traction, healthcare experts are going to need to better research how patient-generated health data can be more seamlessly integrated into clinical workflows.

“As experience with patient-reported outcomes expands and matures, the focus should be on addressing logistical challenges for integrating patient-reported outcome measures into practice, supporting technological advances to seamlessly integrate and report the resulting data to facilitate engagement between patients and providers,” the research team concluded.

“It will be necessary to ensure that patients are partners in developing and prioritizing measures for which outcomes can be reported and captured and to implement user-centered design processes to support the meaningful use of the data.”

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