Podcast info

Duration 35 min.
Guest Carsten Obel
Host Phil Hall

Using people’s personal data for providing better public services is a hotly debated topic. One that polarises many. Not least because, at a bare minimum, there are issues of ethics and security that come into play. But what if your data could be used for good? What if, as an example, citizen’s public and private information formed the foundation for a preventative healthcare revolution? Wouldn’t that be a way to rethink the current norm around patient experience? This is a vision that Professor Carsten Obel hopes will soon become a reality…

'We want to challenge the way we’re thinking. Not just reaffirm what we already know, but to try to open peoples’ perspectives.'

In this episode

Although this year has been challenging in many ways, it has presented an opportunity for organizations in the private and public sectors to rethink health provision. Professor Carsten Obel, Professor of Public Health at Denmark’s Århus University, spearheads research into how data can fuel our future health system.

Carsten and his team investigate the applications of patient data through Health 360, a project tracking the development of the COVID-19 infection and its impact on peoples’ everyday lives. Through an app for smartphones and wearables, they collect and analyze information about disease progression from those who test positive. As there is more and more data available, healthcare services and providers that use this crowd-sourced knowledge will be able to provide better and more personalized care for individuals.

In the latest episode of Designit’s podcast YELLO, Carsten joined our Design Director in Denmark, Jakob Voldum, to share how these services can improve the patient experience, the ethical implications of big data in healthcare, and how mindfulness around mental health is an important factor in shaping that experience.

'Talking about big data, as it relates to health, of course, is that as you’ve just explained, the more data we can collect and that we can organize — regarding all aspects of our lives, be it biological, social, cultural, emotional — will allow us to provide insights and to personalize the treatments, the advice, the support, whatever we need, you know, as we go about our daily lives.'

Big data within healthcare

Public health services, especially in the Nordics, are exploring how technology and health data can be ethically used to improve healthcare. As Carsten frames it, the existing registries and the way in which public information is collected in Denmark should be used towards developing a tool where “you as a citizen could share your data with a society in a transparent and safe way and never fear that there was any misuse of it.” He sees the challenge of building this trust as something Denmark should address, with its infrastructure and abundance of health data, before the private sector develops commercial products.

'I think that the most important thing to say is if we don’t do anything, it’s likely that Google and Apple and commercial partners will develop very strong products, and they’ll sell the products to those who pay the most. Then, I think you will see inequality in health.'

COVID-19 has caused the world to reconsider how people receive and provide care. Building sustainable, efficient, and human-centric systems requires investments in digital solutions such as data management and predictive analytics.

'This is our only chance to make something that is not commercial value creation, but is value creation for society and the citizens of society.'

The new patient-doctor relationship

'[W]ell, maybe this is a time where we try to reinvent the contact between the doctor and the patient.'

Can we make public health services more personalized, more preventative, and more predictive? While our current systems provide standardized, cookie-cutter care, Carsten notes that “An old woman at 80 has different needs than a young person at 18 when it comes to digital or physical meetings.”

According to Carsten, there’s huge potential in patient files and registries. If general practitioners could crowdsource and share information in an anonymized way, learning about what works and doesn’t work for patients of certain profiles, they could provide more personalized care.


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