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Podcast: How Can Healthy Data Save Healthcare?

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Don Woodlock, head of healthcare for InterSystems, joins the HLTH Matters Podcast to discuss why data is an invaluable asset that’s vital to improving healthcare — not just for the benefit of patients, but for physicians, researchers, and public health managers, too. In fact, he argues, healthy data could save lives. Listen to the episode below.

What is healthy data, anyway? Woodlock says it’s information that’s “liberated from the system,” meaning it’s no longer isolated from other data in its source system, but rather unified, normalized, and available when and where clinicians need it.

When the HLTH Matters Podcast spoke with Woodlock, he described what distinguishes healthy data from unhealthy data. They examined why some organizations haven’t caught up with new technologies for health data management — and what’s possible when healthcare organizations build systems that take advantage of healthy data. Some key takeaways include:

  • Unhealthy data is locked within systems and can’t enter workflows, which leaves it languishing as a wasted resource. Healthy data, on the other hand, flows among providers as a powerful, foundational tool.
  • The digitization of health information is already improving research, public health, and patient care — but there’s only one way to reach the next level. That requires establishing a way for healthy data to flow in an omnidirectional manner. Dashboards and electronic health records are transforming analytics, but healthcare will hit a wall unless we can begin feeding insights seamlessly back into workflows.
  • Despite strong starts in the fields of imaging and drug discovery, machine learning for medicine hasn’t yet hit its problem-solving peak. Woodlock says the delay isn’t due to the technology — which is up to scratch — but rather because of unhealthy data. 

If anyone knows healthy data, it’s Woodlock. He has spent his career working in health IT, empowering patients and clinicians with easy-to-use health information. As head of the healthcare business unit at InterSystems, he oversees HealthShare, an advanced interoperability platform, and TrakCare, a unified electronic medical record system.

In the HLTH Matters Podcast discussion, Woodlock points to real-world examples of poor health data management and how healthy data can augment healthcare to save lives. He describes the case of a 28-year-old patient with opioid use disorder, who visited seven different clinics in the two months before he died. If these organizations had leveraged a longitudinal health record, clinicians might have seen the full picture of the patient’s condition. Healthy data could have prevented the patient’s death.

Woodlock is optimistic that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the way forward, but we need healthy data to realize this future. Healthy data, after all, is the key that could open doors to boundless research, enhanced machine learning, and personalized medicine for every patient, when it matters most.

Listen to the full episode of Don Woodlock’s HLTH Matters Podcast.

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