Harry Greenspun: In a Jetsons world, docs' offices resemble the Flintstones

While personal health data abounds, it won't help patients make the right healthcare decisions if they don't know what to do with it, according to Harry Greenspun, M.D., senior adviser at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

"The reason we have to start engaging [patients] is because a lot of the outcomes are dependent upon what they do, the choices they make," he said at the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange's annual fall conference in Reston, Virginia, on Wednesday.

Greenspun said the issue with the rise in available healthcare data due to new technologies, such as wearables, is that they provide a plethora of data that consumers don't use. 

"We've got this data, but does it actually mean anything? Is it connected directly to any sort of meaningful outcome that we need to track?" he said. "Consumers are excited about this stuff, and it seems like a really good thing, but then we start to take a step back and say, 'Well what are we going to do with this?'"

To that end, consumers may not be embracing the tech heavily. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults are not using fitness devices or apps for tracking diet, weight or exercise, according to a recent survey. The research polled 979 Americans with results indicating 11 percent use a fitness tracker and 14.1 percent are using a mobile app to monitor health.

The healthcare industry needs to come to grips with that fact that people are only patients in a healthcare setting but are healthcare consumers all the time, Greenspun said, and providers need to engage consumers in ways that they haven't in the past.

"We live in a Jetsons world, but when you go to the doctor's office it's like an episode of the Flintstones," he said.

However, some effort is being made to make use of the data. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a new initiative underway that will look at how information and data on heath can be used to help people live healthier lifestyles, FierceHealthIT previously reported. 

But for any data effort, there also are worries about privacy and security, Greenspun said.

People are worried about discreet information in their medical records that they don't want shared and are also concerned about misuse of information, which could hold back the promises of health data, he said.

In fact, some medical devices and hospital equipment are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after suspected cybersecurity flaws that could allow the tools to be hacked.