UnitedHealth Group announced that it would be rolling out its proprietary EHR services by the end of 2019, in an attempt to digitally consolidate medical information that can assist big data analytics.
The demand for medical data has drastically increased over the past decade. There are several forms in which they can be generated, including information gathered by biometric scans and numerous sensors. However, the most ubiquitous of them is the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Every patient’s medical history, list of allergies, demographics, and laboratory test results are digitally chronicled in EHR’s, before sharing them via secure information systems to both public and private healthcare providers. EHRs not only trigger warnings and reminder when a patient should get a new lab test, but a collection of individual EHR’s can be used to conduct population health management through big data analytics– which identifies patterns in such records to single-out any otherwise undetected local or global epidemic. UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S., have recently announced the launch of its internally developed EHR system by the end of 2019.
In the United States, more than 94% of hospitals have adopted some form of EHRs. However, UnitedHealth’s large database of 50 million beneficiaries and one million providers have been devoid of such a platform. That is soon set to change, as its “fully individualized and portable” EHR platform would leverage information gathered on their mobile wellness platform, Rally, which has around 20 million registered users. The value of such gathered information can be unlocked by big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), which can then predict outbreaks of epidemics, avoid preventable diseases, reduce the cost of treatment, and improve the overall quality of life.
The new platform has been inspired by Apple’s approach to individual health records (IHRs) and would operate slightly differently than traditional EHRs. According to Steve Nelson, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, “A traditional EMR focuses largely on streamlining internal business processes for facilities and medical groups, but IHR connects numerous EMRs, creating a unified and secure source of truth for both consumers and care providers, and unlocking the value of data that is currently trapped in today’s fragmented healthcare system.” He added, “That means consumers have a much more complete, personal picture of their health needs.”
Despite such a grand intention, many critics have pointed out that the for-profit organization might use the IHRs to guide physicians to UnitedHealth’s preferred clinical laboratories. It wouldn’t make sense for patients to opt for a cheaper clinical testing lab if that record is not incorporated in UnitedHealth’s database. Companies such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics might get a boost out of the new IHR system, given their in-network status with UnitedHealth.
Allowing a major health insurer develop and launch its proprietary EHR system with a few limited functionalities is another example of the potential upheavals happening in healthcare today. Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups must come up with a strategy to remain relevant in a medical marketplace that’s being transformed by such technologies as the Internet-of-Things, big data, real-time analytics, and AI.
That being said, the benefits of implementing EHR majorly outweigh the corporate greed to ensure more profit, especially for patients. Most importantly, it facilitates big data analytics in healthcare that re-invents medical diagnosis in today’s digital age. According to a recent report by Allied Market Research, big data analytics in healthcare market is projected to reach $67.82 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 19.1% during the forecast period, 2018-2025.
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