Access to personal health data presents challenges and opportunities for patients

Efforts are underway to give patients more access to their own health information, but whether they’ll be able to make good use of such data is unclear, according to experts.

A March 11, 2019 Health Affairs blog co-authored by Anna Sinaiko, assistant professor of health economics and policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discussed lessons learned from giving health care consumers more information about costs and quality to help them make decisions about their care, and how these lessons can be used to improve data-sharing practices with patients. Among the key takeaways is that simplicity is best. Studies have indicated that consumers make more informed choices about treatment and where to obtain care when information is presented in uncomplicated ways with minimal technical language.

The articled noted that current downloadable patient data are presented in formats that are not user friendly. Moreover, there are few available tools that can translate the data into actionable recommendations regarding care and treatment.

Despite the challenges, the authors noted that the growth of new smartphone apps that use smartphone data on an individual’s health to make health and behavior recommendations is a promising development. They added that patients should work with clinicians to understand their personal health data and make better health-related decisions.

Read the Health Affairs blog: Will Patients Be Better Consumers When They Can Access Their Health Data?