Doctors with Data: Could They Transform the World of Medicine?

Nurse helping patient in wheelchair in hospital hallway

We talk a lot about data in the world of business – even in healthcare. But what about in medicine? Beyond all those activity-tracking apps we have on our phones, there’s a lot of data that physicians can use to make better decisions about a patient’s treatment plan. It’s called home health monitoring, and according to, it’s estimated to be a “$100 billion industry in five years.

When we heard this story on Marketplace the other day about the home health monitoring industry, it reminded us that there’s still so much we can do with data. In medicine, we’ve barely begun harnessing the full potential of data.

In this Marketplace article, they talked to a healthy, active man who went to his doctor because his blood pressure was abnormally high. His diet was good. He exercised regularly. He was in incredibly good shape otherwise. The doctor had some theories about what it might be, but he couldn’t say for sure from his limited vantage point in the office. So, he recommended that this man monitor his blood pressure at home, so they could see if something was triggering his high blood pressure or if it was high all the time.

After taking home a blood pressure cuff and EKG device, his doctor was able to monitor his blood pressure throughout the course of the day in order to figure out if perhaps stress from his daily commute or his job was causing this high blood pressure. Turns out his blood pressure was consistently high throughout the day, which the doctor was able to confirm thanks to the home health monitoring devices. The doctor guessed it might have something to do with genetics and was able to prescribe medicine.

A 360-Degree View

Think about how this could change the way medicine is practiced. Rather than testing only in the exam room, your doctor could monitor your symptoms for as long as he or she needs. This would give a more holistic picture of what factors may be contributing to your condition. Your doctor could also track how your symptoms progress over the course of a day, week, month, year, or even lifetime.

The problem is that physicians aren’t data scientists. When it’s something simple like blood pressure, it’s easy to determine what data to track. But what if there are several factors? It could be tough to hear the signal through the noise.

Could that mean a future for data scientists in physician’s offices? Or software specifically for physician groups or practices? Perhaps.

According to Marketplace, “No one has demonstrated that it will save money,” referring to home health monitoring.

But what about the cost of multiple doctor visits due to lack of information (or data)? Wouldn’t that save the patient and the healthcare system money in the long run? What if we could pinpoint a diagnosis quicker and more accurately? What if, in doing so, we could prevent more serious health issues in the future?

Ironically, more data is needed in order to answer these questions. At the very least though, it seems like these new developments might make for healthier, happier patients – and better customer service. That should count for something, too.

Listen to the full story here, and see what you think: