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Healthcare in the digital age means that if you end up in an emergency room (ER) while on vacation far from home, your ER doctor could instantly pull up your medical history—and even communicate with your primary care doctor in real time. If asked, most patients—and doctors—would want that to happen so you could get the best, most informed care.

Healthcare in the digital age also means that we have more health data than ever before. And with the high-performing computing power of the cloud and capabilities such as machine learning, more data can be analyzed faster than ever and turned into insight care teams can use to enable better health outcomes for individuals and populations.

Rather than relying only on medical evidence from years ago with a limited number of study participants in one country, with modern technology, providers could gain insight from data that’s being captured every day from millions of people around the world—big data that could advance how we understand and treat diseases and conditions. That could have a life-changing impact on people suffering from rare diseases that we’ve classically had so little information about. We could also better understand patterns of drift—how conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are changing over time. That way, people with those common conditions could get better, up-to-date treatment.

In other words, healthcare in the digital age means we can move medicine forward in ways never before possible and empower a healthier future for all. But we can only do so if we can unlock the potential of digitized health data in ways that both protect patients’ privacy and advance their interests.

Protecting patients’ information is a timeless value we must always uphold. But in some cases, patients would want their data to be available to a provider if it meant better care for them individually, yet the provider is blocked from accessing it. And in some cases, patients would want their data to be used in a de-identified or anonymized way as part of a large data set to advance medicine, but researchers are barred from doing so. Traditional data privacy models can sometimes hold us back from realizing the potential of 21st century healthcare.

So we need to engage in discussions that help move both medicine and data privacy models forward.

Toward that end, I was thrilled to be part of a workshop that Microsoft co-hosted with the EU Cloud in Health Advisory Council at the beginning of May. It brought together health leaders, policy makers, legal experts, and academics to spend the day exploring how patient data can be used to drive optimal health outcomes while respecting and advancing patient privacy and data security imperatives.

Prior to the workshop, we circulated the whitepaper: “Health Data: Saving Lives and Protecting Patients’ Rights” as a platform for discussion. I hope you’ll also check out the whitepaper and read this blog: Harnessing health data for better outcomes: a call to action. Then, please share your thoughts on how we can advance medicine and patient trust in the digital age. You can join the conversation via email, Facebook, or Twitter.