02/03/2011 11:56 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Real Healthcare Reform: Data

As the vote in the Senate to repeal the healthcare reform law failed today, Silicon Valley played host to a discussion on real innovation for our healthcare system, the powerful potential of data to radically change the way healthcare is delivered.

A core problem skirted around in all the discussion, debate and unfortunately, political theater, around healthcare reform has been the fundamental problem that data management and data ownership play a huge role in the failures of our healthcare system. The failure to exchange information amongst necessary healthcare professionals and the inability of patients to engage in any modicum of a DIY approach to the management of their care has consequences far beyond dollar loss: lives are in the balance.

At the the Strata Conference, professionals in the healthcare and data fields grappled with these critical issues, with Accenture's Jim Golden making the statement that should define healthcare moving forward: "Evidence is the new healthcare reform."

Data can save lives. Whether it is the wholesale redesign of primary care delivery envisioned and implemented by experts such as Tenzing Health's Carol McCall or using simple tracking mechanisms on asthma inhalers in the field by patients guided by Asthmapolis' David Van Sickle, these incremental, data driven approaches could revolutionize treatment for those suffering from chronic illness.

Bringing healthcare into "2.0" is not just about electronic medical records. While these types of solutions enhance the ability to share medical information regarding patients, this approach empowers no one to change their own behaviors. Knowledge has the unique ability, on both ends of the user spectrum in healthcare, the provider and the patient, to change behaviors. As pointed out by Health 2.0's Indu Subaiya, micro actions and micro decisions have powerful impacts.

We find ourselves in a unique position with data and healthcare delivery: design can keep in mind laws like HIPAA while taking the disruption approach that has changed just about everything else in our digital lives. Our political leaders could learn something from data leaders in terms of what's important for future sustainability of a healthcare system in a nation so large. As Van Sickle illustrated, micro data would let us know where dollars are being spent. In dealing with a system that on the macro level is a complete mess, every little "bit" counts might be the beginning of a solution.