Health care transformation / Technology

The End of Information Asymmetry in Healthcare

May 12, 2017


As the global conversation about access, ownership and rights to information intensifies, we want to examine these concepts within the landscape of healthcare.

In general, when one group of stakeholders has significantly disproportionate information or knowledge relative to another or others, this is referred to as information asymmetry.

Healthcare is probably one of the best examples of information asymmetry. This, in turn, has a significant impact in the marketplace where it tips the balance of power in any transaction. Ultimately, patients find themselves at the mercy of the information holder when making decisions.

The asymmetry of information has a longstanding presence in the healthcare industry. Much of healthcare’s knowledge, historically has been held by Doctors, having received rigorous education and training. Patients were viewed as not having the necessary knowledge and ability to contribute to the decisions about their own care. This is shifting, but healthcare has lagged other industries that have transitioned more quickly to a customer-centric model. The change in healthcare is being driven by multiple forces: funding reform, changing patient expectations, advances in information technology, and the rapid pace of medical research and knowledge growth.

Health System Reform

There is a global movement towards “patient-centred care”. It involves a more consumer-centric perspective. It recognizes the important role that patients play in their own healthcare. Increasing value for the patient has proven to be a road to improving cost-effectiveness for the system. The goal of the health system is not only to treat the near term medical issue but to facilitate the return of a patient back into society as a functional citizen in an efficient and effective manner. To achieve this goal the system will have to consult more actively with patients and redesign care around the outcomes that matter most to them.

Today’s healthcare systems are increasingly linking funding to value creation, to hasten the transition to patient-centered care. They are also defining value across a wider portion of the patient’s experience. This is driving unprecedented levels of cooperation and collaboration across the system.

Information Technology

Once, medical knowledge could only be acquired through narrow, gated channels: higher education, textbooks, and practical experience. Today, information (and misinformation) is far more accessible. Patients feel empowered by the health information they have access to and better informed to play a larger role in decisions about their care. In fact, they are demanding it.

Patient Demand

Patients, as general consumers, have become accustomed to a higher standard of value and service provided by from other industries. They expect the same level convenience and general user experience from their health systems and service providers. When it comes to access to information, patients are demanding greater participation in their healthcare decision making. Care providers will need to develop more engaging consumer experiences. They must shift to a model where they provide the relevant contextual information and advisement to support the patient’s expanded role in the decision-making process.

Pace of Knowledge Creation

Another issue to arise is the rate at which scientific research and development is occurring and has grown exponentially. Evidence and best practices are being updated every day. Add to this, regulatory standards, organizational priorities, and patient genomic data. The amount of information that needs to be considered per patient is beyond the comprehension of one person.

The end of the information asymmetry in healthcare is inevitable. Other industries have already gone through this transformation. It has led to the commoditization of products and services, increased specialization, greater automation, and overall better value for consumers. In healthcare, we are seeing the diversification of healthcare roles and a decentralization of knowledge. Information technologies are being developed that help translate this wellspring of information into meaningful and actionable intelligence.

Operators of health systems both private and public should be encouraged by the growing symmetry in healthcare knowledge, leading towards increased quality of care at reduced cost.