Patient Engagement

Topol calls patient data ownership a future civil right

“I don’t see Epic, Allscripts or Cerner in existence in another decade,” Topol said.

Dr. Eric Topol speaks at MedCity ENGAGE, Oct. 18, 2016 in San Diego.

Dr. Eric Topol speaks at MedCity ENGAGE, Oct. 18, 2016 in San Diego.

In case anyone thought Dr. Eric Topol was done disrupting medicine, they got a reminder at MedCity ENGAGE Tuesday that he still has plenty of work still to do.

“There’s a quiet revolution happening right now. We’re just seeing the start of it,” Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute at San Diego-based Scripps Health, said during a special guest presentation at ENGAGE.

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He was referring not only to patient engagement, but to “individualized medicine” — a term Topol said he prefers to “precision medicine,” as he explained in a 2014 article in the journal Cell. This data follows patients from the time of conception through their entire lives, a cycle he called “prewomb to tomb” two years ago and now informally refers to as “lust to dust.”

“We are going to be leaving population medicine — where it’s one size fits all — in favor of individualized medicine,” the Scripps cardiologist predicted. This individualization infers that patients should drive their own care, Topol said.

To get there, patients will need to control their own health data. Topol noted that New Hampshire is the only state that grants citizens legal ownership of their health information; everywhere else in the U.S., medical offices and health systems control patient records.

“That’s completely wrong. That has to get fixed,” Topol said. “It should be your data.”

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He went so far as to call patient data ownership “a civil right that’s yet to be granted.”

Given that health data is so much more valuable to cybercriminals than even financial data is, there is a major security risk associated with centralized ownership of medical records. “We need to decentralize this data because the more it’s amassed, the more likely it’s going to be hacked,” Topol said.

In fact, he believes current electronic health records are impediments to individualized medicine. A doctor at a keyboard is “absurd.” Scribes are rather wasteful, too. “Where is voice processing?” Topol asked.

And then he made a bold prediction: “I don’t see Epic, Allscripts or Cerner in existence in another decade,” Topol said.

Some are looking at the blockchain as a means of decentralizing data, he said, but nobody has come up with proper technology for healthcare just yet. “Someday hopefully we’ll find the right solution and get the right legislation,” he said.

Photo: Ivan Hundric