Data Needs to Be Transparent and Open to The Public, Says Former US Health Official - medtigo



Data Needs to Be Transparent and Open to The Public, Says Former US Health Official

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Data must be transparent and accessible to the public, argues David Shulkin, a former health administrator and likely the only person to remain between the administrations of Obama and Trump.  

As per The Hindu Businessline, Shulkin’s remark on data openness comes at a time when governments and corporations are increasing their digital footprints, encouraging patients to give more personal information without providing patients with comparable access to data regarding these institutions.  

“Transparency of data, things like the number of hospital beds, the supply of oxygen, and the ability to how many patients you can handle in treatment, I believe strongly needs to be there for the public to see, especially in a democracy like India and the United States,” Shulkin, Undersecretary of Health for the US Department of Veteran Affairs during the Obama administration and Secretary of Veteran Affairs during the Trump administration, told business leaders. Shulkin is also a consultant for Indegene, an Indian healthcare solutions provider driven by technology.  

Shulkin stated, in reference to his time at the Department of Veterans Affairs, “I leveraged the public release of data to not only better my organization internally, but also to restore some of the faith and trust of the people we served” (US veterans)… Therefore, I made our wait times public, which had never been done previously.

I disclosed our prescription rates of opioid usage, which had never been done before, as well as all of our quality data, which had never been done before so that people could see how we were doing and where we were falling short so that we could receive assistance. We could ask the private sector for assistance in areas where we were unable to complete the necessary work on our own.”  

To share data across the private-public divide, he argued, a consistent definition of the data pieces was required. “You cannot share data if you define a data element differently in the private and public sectors, and those data items must be transparent and publicly publicized so that everyone knows what they are and it’s not a secret,” he added.  

Shulkin concurred that there is always a risk for businesses that operate in nations with various norms. But data openness was the best approach to address such issues, he said, by “displaying the norms and the facts.” He was responding to a question on trust issues in the pharmaceutical business in the wake of tragedies like the Gambia disaster, in which children may have died due to cough syrups manufactured by an Indian company. 

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