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Healthcare data in emerging economies – How can they get it right?

Data is the new oil. The sheer amount of data that is being generated by corporations, healthcare, IT companies, etc. on a daily basis is humungous. The volume of healthcare data in emerging economies is estimated to be increasing by 48% each year. Do note that this data is considered to be one of the fastest-growing segments of data. What’s driving the meteoric rise in big data in healthcare? It’s the industry’s introduction to technology in all its glory, including genomics, AI, IoT, cloud computing, etc. 

Much like crude oil, we cannot use data as such. It is raw and its real value lies hidden. It needs to be analyzed to take out actionable insights. That data means nothing if nothing doable can be derived out of it. We know developed countries are already leading this game. But how can emerging economies get the value of the massive healthcare data they are collecting?

Healthcare data interoperability

Healthcare data serves little purpose if it is not interoperable. Electronically transferring all the data and making it accessible across healthcare organizations is both crucial and tricky. Manually handling the data can be tedious and prone to serious errors. Emerging economies are in the process to build their healthcare infrastructure and can be an early adopter for this or are ready to take it new levels.  Hence, building data interoperability in the system will not only save costs but also prove to be an efficient tool for healthcare delivery in those markets with weak healthcare infrastructure. 

FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a common data interoperability protocol gaining prominence globally. It can be leveraged by emerging economies to allow data flow, overcome technology barriers and serve better care in hard-to-reach markets. 

Data security

Data is critical, especially in healthcare. The huge volume of healthcare data that is electronically handled must be safeguarded from many perspectives. That kind of data is sensitive and needs policies that are followed through. Countries must look at formulating regulations with respect to collecting, handling, access and privacy of healthcare data. It becomes extremely important for emerging economies to tread this landscape with care, keeping in consideration the legal, ethical and financial challenges involved.

Skilled workforce

As technology is transforming the healthcare landscape in the world, training the current workforce as per the changing scenarios becomes very important. The new and evolving healthcare trends will need the staff to be trained and adept with things like AI and big data. Emerging economies can be an early adopter of the innovation and train their healthcare professionals as per the growing technological advancements in the sector. For example, Rwanda is home to campuses of African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Africa. Rwanda can look at taking guidance from these institutions to provide training and upgrading skills of its healthcare professionals. This way it can lead the way for many more emerging economies in Africa. 

Data can be crude oil only when we extract value out of it. Emerging economies can benefit immensely from the volume of healthcare data they gather and turn around the healthcare delivery models for the benefit of all the stakeholders involved. 

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