The healthcare industry, needless to say, has become very efficient at collecting data- be it electronic health records, lab information systems, claims and more. All the incoming data has created a massive reservoir of clinical and financial information- enough to drive considerable healthcare improvement.
Yet, it’s a million dollar question- despite the vast amount of data available to us, how many of those have been used widely to innovate the care delivery model? We are aware of the significant strides technology has made in the field of healthcare and medicine, but how often do we see DNA information and genome sequence being used to find out a cure? Healthcare organizations have a good amount of data available to them regarding their own performances, but how many of them actually utilize that data to make their care delivery patient-centric?
Utilizing data to bring care to a full circle
Consider an example here. Rose Johnson, 59, went to see a physician who she found was located close to her. She complained about some itchy rashes she was troubled with, and the physician prescribed her some ointment after speaking with her for a while. When her issue persisted, she went to see another physician who entered all the information into a computer and had a conversation with her for a good 15 minutes- what’s her age, where does she work- and gave her a prescription opposite to the previous one. It was concluded that Rose had congenital urinary tract issues and later in her life developed a latex allergy- and her occupation as a server in a restaurant required her to use gloves, which were causing an allergic reaction.
This is a fairly simple example of how data and a patient’s medical history can have an impact on the treatment they receive. We’ve had data for a long time now, we just never realized the potential it held. Now, the context is different, healthcare is complex. We today have technology that can show us growth and shortfalls and can even project trends and variations.
Moreover, our data isn’t just limited to electronic records and results- even social conditions have a fairly significant impact on a person’s health. We can’t be just focused on using big data to deliver outcomes and with a rapid transition. Bringing value-based care successfully underway, it’s important that we harness various data sources to collect physical, behavioral, and socioeconomic health information.
All that is left now is to leverage data to be the foundation of quality, value and improving patient outcomes. Physicians have actionable data that can be instrumental in making differences that count, but they come with their own set of challenges.
The woes of healthcare data
So far, the amount of data in healthcare has been incomprehensible. In 2012, the amount of U.S. healthcare data topped 150 exabytes, and it is expected that by 2020, the amount of health data will expand to 25,000 petabytes- 50x more than that existed in 2012. To put things in perspective, that is equal to 50 million years of streaming music. And this sheer amount of data isn’t the only challenge on the road to patient-centric care:
1.) Analytics: Healthcare data, including EHRs, is need significant processing and analytics to derive meaning out of it. About 70% of clinical information can be found in medical records and yet thrse has been no considerable progress in integrating and utilizing that data to learn more.
2.) Integration between clinical and administration systems: Even internally, there are some integration gaps between patient care and administration. Sometimes, medical records maintained by the physicians may not accurately reflect the information in insurance claims and patient billings, which in turn lead to gaps in care.
3.) Patient data exchange: Patient Health Information is confidential information and requires proper, protocol-governed exchange that is compliant with HIPAA regulations. Adequate security is a concern, even without HIPAA regulations because healthcare is much vulnerable to data breaches as compared to other industries.
4.) Lack of talent: A study estimated that by 2020, there could be more than 100,000 people shortage for analytic talent. Data analysts and data scientists require communication, collaboration, and creativity combined with their highly technical skill set. At the rate which we are going, the shortage of data analysts is inevitable.
How do we make sense of such complex data?
True, vast amount of data can be daunting for healthcare organizations. No matter how valuable data is in improving care and cutting costs for both healthcare organizations as well as the patients, as long as it is complex and disparate, we can’t make sense of it. So first of all, the fundamental step should be data integration.
Secondly, even when data has been integrated from all these sources, organizations need more agility and speed. Data collection, analysis, and reporting are tedious processes and if not handled efficiently, can add to an organization’s ineffectiveness and waste. Efficiency is critical- it is the foundation of accurate, data-driven decisions and agile operations.
Third, is constant and holistic monitoring. Data-driven care management can easily identify medical conditions, immediate risks, historical care patterns and the outcomes of care plans. Sophisticated analysis can help transform care, but transformation needs constant, actionable overview and interventions.
The road ahead
With the pace of mobile and wearable technologies saturating healthcare space, healthcare leaders are increasingly looking for solutions that can help them engage with their data. Healthcare data can truly support human endeavor and provide the foundation value-based care analytics need. We are armed with more data than ever to improve patient care and outcomes. Technology is evolving, and so should we- and there will be no reason why we won’t be able to make a difference that counts.
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