Data can show us many things but it is sometimes the combination of data sets that provide us with the clearest insights. In particular, the combination of individual data (what can be learned of each of us) and aggregated data (the behavioural patterns that help us to learn about systems, societies and communities).
The Index is a highly complex and very insightful way of analysing the latter. The challenge for all of us in the healthcare community is to bridge this kind of data with the biological, individualised data that breakthroughs in genetics have given us access to. To merge the individual with the aggregated.
Which is why one of the most valuable elements of the Futureproofing Health Index lies in that single word. Futureproofing. The structure of our health systems is simply not sustainable if we are to provide the best possible care for future generations. We need to plan for the future. And that has to start now.
That’s what I hope will emerge from the Index, for which I have been an adviser and consultant as part of my role at the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies. That it will spark conversations among all who work in healthcare and decision-makers across Europe about how we can pivot from a sick system to a healthy system. From one that is liable to waste enormous sums of money to one that uses technology to make systems more efficient. From one that treats to one that also prevents.
In particular, I believe that the Index can inspire us to move more rapidly towards a more empowering and personalised form of healthcare that incorporates genomics. A result that will come with greater speed when we are able to combine data from projects like the Index with that of genomics.
The sets of data within the Index are incredibly revealing but it would be a mistake to view the results simply as a tabulated series of performance measurements. Instead, the Index shows just how valuable data can be to improve outcomes. The data-sets are signposts as much as measurements.
And by combining them with genomic data – truly personalised and meaningful measurements – we can begin to create a more sustainable and empowering healthcare system. One that benefits patients no matter which country they live in, their income or status.
Genetics has come a long way since the Human Genome Project began in 1990. Now we are able to look with extraordinary precision at the entire genome rather than individual genes. In doing so, it means that we have moved from a reductionist way of working to a more holistic one. The awesome computing power at our fingertips enables healthcare professionals to see the entirety of a person’s genome rather than a narrow issue which might be affecting them at a particular time.
At the heart of the future health paradigm that we are all working towards is a need to know, not just to treat. To know the why, who, how, when and where. Data can help us achieve that understanding, particularly by merging many data sources where genomic data will be at the centre.
It means that the person becomes central to healthcare and wellbeing rather than the system. After all, people move. If we have their personal data we don’t have to rely on the more inefficient process of different healthcare systems dealing with the same person in different ways and perhaps with different results. We can provide truly personalised care that is more effective and efficient.
Thus, the focus is on the reciprocity of getting the data into the system and on what the individual can get out of the data. That enables HCPs to intervene earlier with individuals assisted by more accurate prediction and prevention models.
That genetic data, combined with the behavioural and results-based data of initiatives such as the Index, can be enormously powerful. Especially if all nations can be a part of it, encouraging the pursuit of a more European approach with a common set of standards and practices.
The will to create a bridge between health data and health-relevant data is there, so perhaps initiatives such as the Index can hasten those efforts. By linking these sources and comparing results across Europe, we can provide a more accurate overview of individuals from birth and transform healthcare systems so that they can focus on people rather than simply problems.
One of the core reasons for the breakdown in healthcare systems is that we typically begin to invest vast sums of money when people are dying, which is expensive and will become even more so as populations increase and people live longer. However, if that investment happens earlier we can map a path around life span resilience rather than just intervene clinically.
Data, such as that provided by the Index, becomes crucial in that transformation. By assessing who is doing well and why, we can start to more accurately decide levels of investment in different disease areas and where more genome-inspired preventative initiatives will be most effective.
That’s why the Index is so crucial. It is not the end-product but a start. A way to show what is and isn’t working that encourages decision-makers to seek more answers by analysing the data, embracing genetics and promoting debate.