Every Day, 90% of Health Information Vanishes

To be honest, I'm not really sure if it's 90%. It may be closer to 99%.

Every day, millions of people wake up, and they just don't feel right. Some of them are beginning to get a cold or the flu, and a sizable percentage of patients with a chronic condition are waking up to discover that today is going to be a bad day.

They may have a new symptom, something that they've never felt before. They may have a headache for what is it the third or maybe fourth time this week. Many of them are inconsistent with their medications and that may or may not be why they feel the way they do today.

Where does health information go?

Unless those patients have a doctor appointment, show up in urgent care clinic, or have the misfortune to be hospitalized, nothing will be known about how they're doing today. Whether they are having a good day or a bad day, whether their pain levels are skyrocketing, whether the new medication they began taking is working or not, what symptoms they experienced today, all of it will be lost.

This is absolutely critical data in order to understand what's going on with the patient what they're doing to help or hurt themselves, are they tolerating their prescriptions, is their care plan working and should it be adjusted. Are they getting better or worse?

This matters at an individual patient level, but it also matters in the big picture. What treatments and medications work best? Blood tests and CAT scans tell part of the story, but how a patient feels is a critical component of healthcare, maybe the single most important thing from a patient perspective.

Why Patient Data Matters

How a patient feels drives nearly all their decision making from medication compliance, exercise, diet, even end of life care decisions.

If you feel really bad you call your doctor or visit a clinic or ER. Upon interacting with the nurses and doctors you will be asked about specific things that are bothering you, when they began, how often they have been occurring. You will be asked about what you've done recently and what you usually do and whether you are consistently taking your medications.

And unless the symptom began yesterday or today, you will find yourself giving vague answers and being generally unable to remember how you felt or what you were doing when something started. We are not wired to remember things like this.

So even for someone who is having a bad time and knows it and wants to seek medical help, it is still incredibly difficult to provide the context necessary for the doctor to identify the patterns. And patterns are what diagnosis, treatment, and assessment, are all about.

Which brings me back to the title of this article. Every single day, unless the patient saw a doctor, or keeps a detailed journal that someone actually reads, virtually all of the information about how they're doing, what they're feeling, are they getting better, are they getting worse - is simply lost.

That data is essential in every aspect of healthcare, from making an accurate diagnosis, to assessing treatment effectiveness, to engaging a patient to take greater responsibility for their own care. Additionally, it is the key to truly measuring outcomes and conducting comparative effectiveness research.

What will happen when you and your doctor have better data to work with?