Letters to the Editor
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to Kringos and colleagues’ comments on our article “Health Information Counselors: A New Profession for the Age of Big Data.” We commend the important work undertaken by the European Commission and the project teams to create an international training network of Healthcare Performance Intelligence Professionals (HealthPros). This provides new PhDs with opportunities for interdisciplinary training across a range of fields associated with the health sciences, administration, and economics. Although this is important, our proposed creation of a new profession of health information counselors (HICs) serves a distinct, yet complementary, goal: providing professional training for individuals who want to work primarily, if not exclusively, as HICs.
The challenges of data-driven health care are already upon us. Medical professionals and patients are navigating diverse sets of increasingly complicated data in everyday medical decisions. An important change in this landscape has been that of information flow. While information was traditionally understood to move from expert to patient, we are now seeing situations where patients and companies are providing personal, digitized, and often unvalidated information to clinical professionals. Although we laud the efforts of the HealthPros program to better prepare professionals from a range of fields for these challenges, we continue to believe that we need a new professional specialty. We envisage HICs to be dedicated to working on a daily basis at this interface of multiple information flows, thereby helping to make data actionable and meaningful for both clinicians and patients.
It is likely that the development of a professional program for HICs would offer many points of fruitful dialogue with the HealthPros program. Further, HICs could help HealthPros address the increasing clinical and personal challenges that are posed as more domains of people’s lives are datafied in a related, albeit distinct, fashion. These points of productive interface should be further developed. Increasing dialogue on these matters is a welcome contribution to meeting pressing medical challenges in the age of big data.
Amelia Fiske, PhD
Senior research fellow, Institute of History and Ethics in Medicine, School of Medicine, Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany; firstname.lastname@example.org; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7207-6897.
Alena Buyx, PhD, MD, MA
Director and professor, Ethics in Medicine and Health Technologies, Institute of History and Ethics in Medicine, School of Medicine, Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5726-7633.
Barbara Prainsack, Dr Phil
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, and Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6335-1532.