A Morbid Case of Information Inertia: Why Data Liquidity Is Key to Modernizing Healthcare

By Charles Aunger

Putting aside the pleasures of binge-watching House of Cards, have you ever wondered why Netflix is so successful? One obvious reason is its strategic use of subscriber data. As Farhad Manjoo noted in The New York Times, Netflix “is amassing a cache of intelligence on what customers want, and it’s using that data to create content that appeals to a wide range of demographics globally.…As it gets more subscribers, it gets more data and more money to fund more content, which in turn helps it bring in more customers, and on and on, ever faster.”

This strategy is powered by data liquidity and has, over a relatively brief period of time, proved immensely transformative for visual entertainment production, delivery, and consumption. So why is there not a similar approach employed for the decidedly more important purpose of transforming our lagging healthcare system? Why don’t we use the enormous cache of extant health data to better deliver the services that wide demographic ranges of patients need, and simultaneously evolve those services into an ever more effective and efficient healthcare system via learnings from that data?

The answer is that, at present, we can’t.

Unlike digital natives and data-driven tech companies such as Netflix, the health sector currently suffers from a morbid case of information inertia and until this problem is treated, there will be no systemic transformation.

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Kawika Holbrook