As data in healthcare becomes more exposed, providers are seeing what is really behind the “iron curtain, Janice Nicholson, President & CEO of i2i Systems discusses.
Data has a greater impact in today’s world than ever before. With the amount and depth of data available, it can tell a detailed story about your organization’s performance. If you want to control that story, you need to know your data intimately and have the right technology to help you manage your data.
Data is the new microscope. We are seeing things now that we have never been able to see before and we can present data in a way where it can shift our perspective very quickly. With one click, you can explore all of your diabetic patients who have had two visits, for example, and see them categorized by race, payer, gender, age, etc. This type of view allows you to identify outliers or missing data almost instantaneously, enabling you to take action much more quickly.
But this is just the beginning. We are entering a new frontier of data where health care staff can get a clear view of all the unstructured data in their Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and given this new insight, they are starting to panic. As the data becomes more exposed, providers are seeing what is really behind the “iron curtain,” which is forcing them to take a step back and ask themselves what their data is really saying about them and their performance.
The Potential Impacts of Data
The impact of data can be far-reaching. Data entered into an EHR can reveal so much about your practice effectiveness, care team behaviors, patient adherence, cost savings opportunity, quality of care, and more. If you don’t routinely mine your data and turn it into useful information, you’re potentially missing out on big opportunities to learn and evaluate your effectiveness.
Steve Tierney, Medical Director and CMIO at Southcentral Foundation, said it best in a presentation at a past i2i Systems’ User Conference: “Management of information will have the same impact that penicillin, sterile surgery and vaccinations had in the 20th Century.”
One of these impacts is that big data will reveal descriptive and predictive patterns that even the human mind cannot recognize. For example, health status trends by demographic and clinical indicators will reveal new insights into disease management that will challenge the historical evidence base. The richness, information and knowledge of health data have potential to truly catapult us forward in managing the health of populations.
And with today’s data analytics tools and software solutions, it is easier than ever to leverage large amounts of data for better decision making and have immense impact on your patients.
Look Beyond the EHR
Today’s data analytics tools provide a deeper and clearer view into patient information. These tools are absolutely critical for providers, as very few recognize the complex issues of EHR data quality and how it can adversely affect their practice.
Inaccurate vitals, lab values and demographic information limit a care team’s ability to correctly identify at-risk populations. Without ‘clean’ data, providers won’t know the truth about the health of the patient populations for which they provide care.
Using analytics tools to report on data not typically accessible through EHRs puts providers and payers on equal footing (and potentially gives providers the edge) when negotiating contracts and receiving Pay-for-Performance (P4P) incentives. So, it is critical to use the right analytic tools and gain the best insight into your data.
Sadly, many organizations do not have a clear view of their data and cannot localize where data may be entered inappropriately, or by whom. As mentioned in a previous blog, assigning a staff member from each clinical department as a “data steward” to coach others and validate quality of data can help reduce inaccurate data issues. You can also consider partnering with your analytics vendor to help identify and correct data quality issues.
The Story You Can’t Control
You have to be cautious about what story your data will tell about you, especially with payment reform, P4P and Meaningful Use. The government and insurance companies will assess you based on the data they see. Dramatic solutions are needed to change the future. Increasingly, employees and patients are being incentivized to manage their health, raising potential issues for those who do not maintain a certain level of health. These populations will pay more and more for health insurance, and profound actions will be taken against providers that cannot impact their patient’s health. Providers will need to use data to take control their story.
Using Data to Create Healthier Populations
Providers must realize their role has changed radically. It is no longer just about providing care – it is about getting involved in the patient’s care. Providers need to become educators to help change patients’ behaviors and “un-train” engrained habits. Since patients put a great deal of trust in their health care providers, it is up to them to engage their patients in a different type of care model, including providing suggestions to improve health, educating them on how choices affect their health, and providing data to motivate results. Only then may patients start to make better choices on their own.
Electronic data and analytics systems can help providers optimally manage their patient populations and provide reminders to manage proactively. As health systems change and grow, health IT systems expand as well, creating complex challenges to clean, consistent and standardized data. These systems will require progressive data analytics tools to help providers clearly identify trends in patient health and prevent patients from falling through the cracks. With these tools, providers will make huge strides in care delivery and patient engagement, ultimately leading to more educated and healthier populations.
Janice Nicholson is the Co-founder and CEO of i2i Systems where this article was first posted and is known in the health care industry as a thought leader and visionary in the area of information technology.