NEJM Data Survey


“The Quantified Self” holds great promise for healthcare, as we replace once-a-year checkups with a rich data set of biometric information collected around the clock, all year long. The question is whether or not healthcare professionals perceive the value of this new information, and whether it will be useful in lowering healthcare costs and improving outcomes.

A new study by the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst group polled health care executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians to find out what they think are the most useful data sources today, and how this might change in five years. Clinical data remains the top source in both time ranges, but with a significant drop of 13 percentage points. In contrast, patient-generated data jumped 10 percentage points to end up tied for third. And the biggest change was posted by genomic data, rising from 17% to 40%, tied with with patient-generated data.

The big take-away from these results is that healthcare professionals are eager to deliver the benefits of personalized medicine. In my opinion, we need to make sure that we continue to make progress in two vital areas. First, the data generated must be accurate. Garbage in, garbage out; if the data sets are not meaningful, then the results can’t be meaningful. The second issue is that we need better tools to sieve through the enormous amounts of data to transform it into useful information, that can then be converted to practical knowledge that will guide diagnosis and treatment. We’re making enormous strides in both areas, but we will need to continue to invest in making these systems better if we’re to realize the potential benefits.