The payoffs for more personal digital health data are likely to be great—both in terms of improved health as well as the reduced costs that many researchers have posited (although most are quick to add that data on these outcomes is still yet to be seen). Giving individuals more access to their medical records could reduce the number of medical mistakes made each year. "There are just a vast number of errors in our medical records," deBronkart says. And with patients looking over their own information more frequently, mistakes and oversights are more likely to be caught before they cause harm.
More preventive health decisions made by individuals can also decrease medical care costs down the road. Kashyap explains that personal health records are useful for individuals to make "if-then" decisions to control symptoms or keep an eye on their medication's effectiveness. To help stem the tide of chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, "we hope that we can change people's attitudes toward work, living [and] diet" through personal health records because "that's hard to do when you see the doctor so infrequently," Kashyap says.
"Once you provide information, you empower the patient," she says. Having individualized and portable health information also "can help with chronic disease management," she notes, reminding patients to take their medication or stay on top of symptoms to see when their drug regime or lifestyle should be changed.
Despite all of the cultural and technical challenges of expanding individualized digital health information, the proliferation of this data seems imminent. "I think it's ready for takeoff," Kashyap says.