One of the main areas that we think TARTLE can make significant contributions in is the medical field. To help explain how that might work we sat down with Dr. Christine Cassel. Dr. Cassel is a physician working in bioethics, specifically how we can use data through technology to improve healthcare and the lives of our aging population.

TARTLE: Dr. Cassel, thanks for sitting down with us. You mentioned that you are working to see how technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence can help improve the quality of healthcare.

Dr. Cassel: Thank you. The big thing is that as our population ages, there a lot of health issues that come with that. What I’m exploring is different ways of using data to help improve care for people and help them lead longer and healthier lives. 

Already we can look at data and see that although there are a few issues, like opioid addictions and other challenges that have reduced life expectancy for some, over all life expectancy has gone up. What that means on a population level is that our whole system has to think differently about how we deliver care and also how we create the conditions for people to stay healthy, stay active, and for society to take advantage of older people as the population ages. The personal health side of it is that every person is aging at their own rate and has her own individual medical challenges. And most of us will face a life altering functional decline of some sort. 

TARTLE: And typically, the older you get the more at risk you are from a health standpoint. 

Dr. Cassel: Usually, yes. Thought here are many 85 year olds you flourish after even major surgery like joint replacement. Lots of people will assume that there is no way to help someone that old and will just abandon them. They’re making bad assumptions.  

TARTLE: You’re right about that. Just because one person may have the issue of a broken hip leading to an infection, it doesn’t mean everyone does. We have a natural bias that comes into play, where we’re going to focus on only what we’ve heard and the worst things that can typically happen, which usually leads to ignoring what are actually the majority of outcomes. That’s where access to individual data is so important. Having direct source data means we get past our assumptions and make real recommendations based on complete information. 

Dr. Cassel: And AI can help a lot there. With the right data inputs it can give better information to the doctors, nurses, public health workers, community health workers, etc. With the right data, they can determine if a particular patient is high risk for falling and breaking their hip, whether they are old or not. It’s predictive analytics. Right now we have some of that modeling, but we don’t have it for all the different kinds of things that happen in the healthcare system and in hospitals where we really could intervene early and prevent people from experiencing unnecessary complications.

TARTLE: It seems another challenge is to get information from the middle and lower demographics that typically don’t feed into the system, especially in poor and developing countries. There needs to be some sort of means where we can communicate with the individual to use that information so that it gives us a broader base of info to pull from to actually get a more well-rounded, predictive analytic on what may happen. 

Dr. Cassel: You’re already talking about going a step further that have here in the United States of America. Most of the good work that’s gone on around AI in healthcare uses existing clinical databases without even telling the patient. It’s done with good intentions and as long as the data’s de-identified the governing privacy rule HIPAA doesn’t apply. But as people become more aware you hear about these concerns about particularly the big commercial companies getting involved in this. They mostly sell your data for their own purposes.

So no wonder people are getting upset and are more nervous about healthcare data recently. I mean, they’ll give all their data to Google and Amazon and they may think it’s obnoxious, but they accept it. When it gets to healthcare, there’s a lot more sensitivity to it. So there’s a whole bunch of people like myself now, starting to think creatively about how you develop an ethical and policy model that can respect the individual whose data you’re using. And at the same time, not put a barrier in the way to be able to get all the advantages of using that. 

TARTLE: Yeah. I think that doesn’t bode well in terms of ethics and trust. Most of the time these companies aren’t talking to the individuals. All they are getting is data free of context. We afford them the choice, the opportunity, and the education to know exactly what’s going on with that information where it’s headed and how it will be used. And to benefit from it. 

Dr. Cassel: Right, I don’t think is a bad thing if people are making money by creating new products but it seems like the people behind the data should benefit financially as well. 

TARTLE: Right. There’s this point of incentive and comfort. With TARTLE you can get access to information that otherwise isn’t available and directly from the information that people that are creating in their health record. That incentive also helps to gain access to things that are a bit more private and don’t show up in the doctor’s notes. If they really want to know the nooks and crannies of me or you, they’re going to have to pay a little bit more and that’s not going to come to TARTLE, but rather directly towards the individual. So it creates that financial inclusion, and provides deeper, richer data sets they otherwise didn’t have access to. So their AI models can now flourish more than before. Your epidemiology studies will start to make more sense because you have a real, true population sample. Lucky for us because we’re in the United State and everybody has smart phones. And if even if you go to low income and middle income countries, they all have smart phones. 

Dr. Cassel: And in those more resource challenged countries the value to the individual would be greater. And, you know, there’s an ethical issue. You want to make sure you’re not exploiting people’s poverty or making it easy electronically steal their data but because the encryption is so powerful, it’s not a risk. Your system can give the local officials or public health people in that country tremendous tools that they don’t have currently. This system can help them prioritize their resources.

TARTLE: The design of our system will show everybody what the market value for their data is. So I’m not going to choose a developing country and say, I’m going to take 60% off of what I was bidding for the US healthcare brackets. In our system, people can see the price offered and the market value and make decisions based on that. This is actually primary source data. That’s the beauty of it, Chris. That its not secondary or tertiary information. That’s like getting on an emotional level with the entire globe, like what you and I are doing right now. It’s being able to have essentially that dialogue and create financial opportunity at the same time. 

Dr. Cassel: So it’s really important that these kinds of opportunities be available while policy makers are thinking about some of this so that they’re not making yesterday’s regulations for what should be tomorrow’s technology. 

TARTLE: Hopefully we become a leading model for people to follow. Chris, I appreciate you giving me this time. It’s been insightful and I know people will benefit from all of this.

 

What’s your data worth?