Dude!, where’s your health data?

Bill Bunting

Bill Bunting

Passionate about innovative healthcare tech that improve patient outcomes. Follow @WTBunting

Healthcare Data Growing At Rapid RateAs patients globally demand better care at reduced costs, data is becoming our most valuable strategic asset. And as such, every healthcare provider, payer, organization, and vendor is now in the data business. At a growth rate of 48% per year, the healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of the digital universe, with U.S. hospitals managing on average 665 terabytes of data, according to some estimates. Yet, getting to the place where analytics are embedded into an organization’s infrastructure is going to require a radical shift and disruption in everything the hospital does—a shift that will only be more prevalent as patients become more mobile, more connected, and more social. In effect, data is becoming more valuable today than it ever has been in the past for the healthcare industry.


Solving data challenges

Healthcare is challenged, though, with moving information to and from where it ought to go. Most healthcare data isn’t readily accessible, let alone actionable. The inability to use all forms and sources of information is holding organizations back at a crucial time when costs continue to skyrocket, chronic disease is ballooning, and providers are being called upon to do more with less. Traditional healthcare organizations need to start viewing data
as a strategic asset to improve patient outcomes and quality, and reduce The Healthcare Reality: Rising Costs, Increasing Chronic Disease, Decreasing Life Expectancycosts. If they don’t, patients will seek all of what they are demanding elsewhere—and the plethora of disruptive direct-to-consumer companies entering the market will give it to them. Which is precisely why it is finally time to quit talking about change and start acting on it.

Healthcare organizations need to reduce data silos and break down the barriers that prevent sharing of information inside and outside the enterprise. They also need to broaden data collection efforts and start integrating data from payers, other providers and third-party organizations, and of course, consumers. All of this requires a next-generation repository to bring together all forms of healthcare data into one place. Coupled with better workflow, workflow tech, and analytics capabilities, organizations will then be able to capture the full value of data in real time.


Obstacles holding organizations back

Next-generation EHRs, despite all of the benefits they have brought our industry, still do not provide a holistic view of the patient record. Factor in fragmented systems, paper, and the typical 3 years worth of legacy data migrated to a new EHR, and most organizations are lucky to see 25-50% of the patient record. Cumulatively, this is preventing enterprises from being able to deliver the right information, in the right context, to the right person, at the right time. And instead, disrupted provider workflow leads to less informed decisions, duplicate testing, and increased costs.

EHRs were also never designed with the intention of managing unstructured data—such as documents, audio and images—further inhibiting their ability to present clinicians with a complete view of the patient record. This results in majority of the content that comprises the patient record residing outside of the EMR system. As a result, unstructured and fragmented data across multiple systems, and even paper records, will continue to block even the most committed institutions from success until they are able to retrieve all forms of information, and assemble that data in a form that is clinically actionable.


Patients demanding more

As healthcare struggles with these problems and is a laggard behind other industries, patients are not waiting for them to catch up. Patients are no longer passive receivers of a diagnosis—they are consumers and active participants in their own care. It is becoming much more common place to see patients demanding access to their personal health information wherever they are for this very reason. They now want the ability to quickly and securely share their complete electronic health record with other providers. They want this Patients_Expecting_Moreability from any mobile device, right from their pocket, in a way that makes their information easily accessible, quickly transferable, and downloadable without a hitch. And they also want to contribute to their own healthcare decisions as conveniently as possible using mHealth and telemedicine tools.

But patient expectations are also increasing for treatment options and speed of delivery—such as mobile monitoring, remote diagnostics, aging in place, and patient-centered medical home. And the increasing emphasis on personalized medicine is driving demand for cutting edge research and technologies such as advanced medical imaging, digital pathology, and genomics.

All of this is placing a greater reliance on the use of data and information technology to tighten the disconnect between patients and their families, providers and payers, to delivery more person-centric care.


What if we could change that?
So the question that the industry is asking is ‘what if’—what if we could redefine the delivery of patient care through data? But its not really a question of ‘what if,’ but rather one of ‘are we [as an industry] ready?’ Are we ready to improve patient care, reduce risk, and optimize resources? Are we ready for population health and predictive analytics? Are we ready for patient engagement and personalized medicine?

The answer here should be a resounding: no. But that’s where healthcare’s greatest opportunity lies—to provide patients the same experience with their doctor that they have with Amazon or Netflix, where they proactively know what their customers want or need before they even need it or want it. And data and analytics sits at the foundation. So for clinicians, it becomes as if they consult with a committee of experts exposed to hundreds of thousands of patients who are similar to the one sitting in front of us—paving the way for amazing treatments, faster, better.

What If We Could Redefine Healthcare Through Data?So what if we could start doing just that? What if we could enable data-driven healthcare delivery through integrated patient records, interoperability, accessibility and usability—optimized for workflow, with flexible infrastructure. What if we could actually use ‘big data’ by unlocking the power of information in new ways ways that lead to better patient outcomes, less waste, and fewer health disparities. What if we could deliver a precision response to every patient that we serve—treating them with highly personalized, engaged and collaborative care, and doing so at a lower cost.

Lahey Health is an example of a progressive healthcare organization that has transformed the way it manages and organizes information to improve patient care. When they moved to their new EHR, they migrated five years worth of data. But they had a goal of providing their clinicians access to a lifetime of patient information. To do that, they needed to figure out how to consolidate their obsolete legacy clinical systems. Taking a unique approach, they were able to cost-effectively archive all forms of legacy patient information and integrate it to their EHR to give their providers a 360-degree view of the patient record. It’s a huge advantage for them in terms of being able to improve the quality of care they provide, but also avoid unnecessary IT costs. And the data foundation they now have offers boundless potential for future analytics use, and integration into mobile patient-engagement channels to expand the delivery of care.

But thats just the beginning of where we—where we can transform ourselves with a digital mindset. It just takes making the choice to use content as a strategic asset, and to engage with patient-consumers in ways that were once never thought to become reality.

That time is today, and healthcare’s future starts now.

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