Medical data has to be protected, but available

We interviewed Charles Lowe, the Managing Director of the Digital Health & Care Alliance (DHACA). On June 15th he will be speaking in a panel discussion at the eHealth 360° Summit 2016 which will take place in Budapest, between June 14th and 16th this year. Mr. Lowe is a skilled and accomplished expert in applied use of IT in medical science. This is what he shared with us.

Could you introduce the scope of your work and tell us what kind of expertise you will bring to the eHealth 360° Summit?

I have a portfolio of different roles. The most significant is Managing Director of the Digital Health & Care Alliance (DHACA) which is UK Government-funded. DHACA’s role is to accelerate the beneficial use of digital health within the health and social care services. Our most important piece of work so far was examining the reasons for the lack of uptake of mHealth apps by doctors. Of the two main reasons we identified, DHACA has now clarified the regulation of mHealth apps in our free-to-download 44-page document, and argued strongly for high-level agreement on the appropriate methods) for assessment of mHealth apps.

I am also active in the Royal Society of Medicine, where until very recently I was President of the Telemedicine & eHealth Section. Recently I organised our first event on Wearables. On April 5th I am organising our fourth event on medical apps and on May 19th, our second “The future of healthcare; the role of doctors in 2025”.

I also organise the London Health Technology Forum which meets monthly on one evening to discuss health & care technology issues.

At the EU level I am on the drafting team of the Privacy Code of Conduct for mHealth Apps, and on the Working Group for mHealth app assessment.

You will be participating in a discussion panel on Privacy and Security. What is your opinion on the status quo of this area in eHealth? And where are we headed?

Charles Lowe
Charles Lowe, speaker at eHealth 360° Summit 2015

Privacy on health matters is clearly a very important issue as many people like to restrict access to such information greatly, in part at least because it can be used for targeted marketing. The challenge with health & care is that when you are at home and well you don’t see why anyone else should know your information; however if you are involved in a serious accident, you may well want all your health information readily available, to save your life. For the same reason, security, to ensure your private information is well protected, is equally important.

Another area of importance is how we can learn from past experience, and here it is important to be able to do ‘big data’-type computations using anonymised data. Clearly, regulations that make it easy for people to prevent their data being used in such calculations, even when anonymised, reduce our ability to learn, and so reduce our ability to improve.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of eHealth?

My hopes for the future of eHealth are e-less! By that I mean that, just as eGovernment & eBanking became Government & Banking, so I hope that health & care can lose the “e” fast, and embrace the digital world wholeheartedly.

This will be difficult though, because whilst medicines principally achieve their benefit by biochemical reaction, and so are largely independent of care pathway, digital health delivers most of its benefit by enabling different care pathways to deliver care in fundamentally changed ways. Therefore, unless professionals are willing to change the way they work, eHealth will not deliver its promised benefits.

Registrations for eHealth 360° Summit 2016 are open! Find out more.