Should all Clinical Data be Made Available to the Public?

One of the longstanding debate topics in the health care realm is whether clinical data should be made available to the public or not. Notably, most of these debates are centered around whether clinical data should be treated as a public good or private property. However, the vital question should focus on which option benefits the healthcare care field the most. From this angle, the simple answer is ‘yes,’ clinical data should be made available to the public to improve healthcare and facilitate enhanced patient outcomes.

Clinical data is often compiled with public funds; thus, rendering it public goods or utility. This fact alone suggests that the data should be shared widely and used for the common good of improving healthcare delivery. However, it is worth acknowledging that private entities also collect and analyze clinical data incurring great costs. This makes the data collected by these entities qualify as private property. However, from the perspective of improving healthcare delivery and enhancing patient outcomes, the best option for public and private entities is to make the data available to the public. The data can help address existing gaps and facilitate possibilities if researchers have the luxury of draw information from multiple, diverse sources.

However, for the above-described scenario to work, there must be a broad consensus on an ethical framework for sharing clinical data. This means that clinical data should only be made available to the public after being aggregated and all patient identifiers removed. Moreover, everyone who interacts with the data should be held to high ethical standards, including protecting patient privacy and using the data to improve the healthcare system. Indeed, making clinical data available to the public can prove significantly beneficial to evidence-based care.

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