Revolution, Liberty, and Health Information

Written by: Brian Mack

In April of 1775, a ragtag contingent of colonial militiamen engaged an overwhelming force of British Army Regulars in the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. These skirmishes, coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson as “the shot heard round the world”, began what became the American Revolutionary War.

Tensions had been growing steadily between Britain and the North American Colonies for years prior to Lexington and Concord. Even so, a full scale rebellion by the colonists was a bold, and potentially foolhardy enterprise. At the time, the British Empire was at the peak of its power, and their army and navy were both respected and feared as the largest and most formidable fighting forces in the world. By comparison, at its inception the Continental Army was a disheveled and disorganized lot, made up volunteer militiamen, under the control of each of the thirteen original states from which they came.

The conflict between the Crown and Colonists was well known in England too. Several attempts had been made to reason with King George III by both the merchant class and the church. They appealed to him to offer some concessions to avoid a revolution that would be costly both in terms of treasure and lives lost. But the King was convinced that the troubles in America were a result of too lenient governance from the mother country, and pressed for a firm response to bring the colonists back in line.

As we now know, King George underestimated the resolve of the Colonists. His hubris ultimately lead to one of the greatest defeats of British military might in history, and the creation of the United States of America as an independent and sovereign nation.

Perhaps the moral of the story is never to take human nature and our intrinsic drive for self-determination for granted. This commitment is made clear in the impassioned words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty, or give me death”, which became a rallying cry for the Continental Army throughout the war. 

Healthcare Revolution – Liberate the Data

In healthcare today, we are in the midst of another kind of revolution, but one that is no less consequential for the assurance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and our posterity. The ultimate goal is the creation of an affordable, accessible, sustainable, and wellness-focused healthcare ecosystem. As the creation of the nation required patriots across thirteen colonies to forego individual interest and join together for the greater good, so realizing the vision of this new healthcare paradigm requires the collaboration of patients, providers, payers, and politicians. To be successful, each participant must share in the commitment, be equally invested, and have the tools necessary to get the job done.

While the Continental Army needed muskets and cannons to accomplish their goal, the healthcare revolution is driven by data. Data is the currency of healthcare delivery and experience today. Every step a patient takes while navigating their healthcare journey is quantified by a seemingly endless stream of ones and zeroes that collectively reflects a digital representation of them. This information has great potential to inform and enhance the outcomes of care on behalf of patients.

At the same time, it can also be anonymized, aggregated, and marketed at a profit by health systems, insurers, and technologists. Patients realize little if any direct benefit from this use of their digital lives. As was mentioned in another recent post, equity of access to patient health data is only part of the equation. To assure full participation of ALL collaborators in the healthcare revolution, patients must also be empowered to use this information to positively impact their own state of being and quality of life.

As with the intrinsic desire of people to live freely without outside interference, so too people yearn to be in control of their personal health information, and ultimately their ability to positively impact their own quality of life. Without that, the situation becomes one akin to “taxation without representation”. Those of us inside the varied siloes of our current healthcare system would be wise to take a lesson from history, and embrace the idea that where the data is concerned, we are ALL created equal.

On behalf of the entire team at Great Lakes Health Connect, we wish to express our gratitude to our healthcare provider partners for giving us the opportunity to serve, the citizens who entrust us with their health information, and to the men and women in Michigan, across the country, and around the world who work to keep our nation safe and free. Happy Independence Day!