The Data Tsunami

Advances in technology, health reform laws, and federal stimulus funds have facilitated the creation of health information exchanges (HIEs) across medical communities and are promising to make clinical data more accessible to providers at the point of care.

HIEs are designed to aggregate and move patient information electronically between various healthcare information systems. The ultimate goal is to give providers the data required to better manage the health of individual patients and their patient populations. An efficient HIE infrastructure results in safe, timely, and effective data retrieval in real time and at the point of care.

While the concept of HIEs sounds great, the reality for providers is that soon they will be flooded with vast amounts of data that will need to be identified and interpreted. Though new interoperability standards are being introduced, information will still be presented in a variety of formats, such as ICD-10, SNOMED, LOINC, or RxNorm. In order to effectively and efficiently treat patients, physicians will need tools to make sense of the available data and indentify the relevant elements for a given clinical encounter.

For example, if you are a physician examining a patient, you may access an HIE to obtain a more complete picture of the patient’s medical history, including previous lab and test results, medications, and diagnoses. Depending on the complexity of the patient’s health and treatment, the amount of data could be overwhelming. Manually sifting through mountains of information could be tedious and pertinent data could be easily missed.

Providers need complete patient records to support clinical decision-making and facilitate care coordination. Data sharing is also critical for achieving Meaningful Use, especially as the program moves to Stage 2. Furthermore, health information exchange is a cornerstone for new reimbursement models that emphasize outcomes and accountability for patient health over traditional patient encounter volume. The incoming sea of data has great potential for improving patient and population health, but only if providers have efficient tools to intelligently identify and interpret the relevant information.

 

Dave Lareau is CEO at Medicomp Systems.