Key to population health? Real-time, genomic data

'We have to rethink workflows to what other industries have done when shifting to consumer-based models'
By Jessica Davis
10:40 AM
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While population health remains an increasingly emphasized piece of healthcare, putting it into practice has been a challenge for many institutions. And although the amount of ingestible electronic information is increasing, fully utilizing its potential has yet to occur.

"We're at a point of healthcare that all of those providers are going to require real-time systems to access, aggregate and analyze data in real-time," Dave Bennett, senior vice president of healthier populations at Orion Health, tells Healthcare IT News.

[See also: NIH funds research to integrate genomics into EHRs]

"The big trend is shifting these systems from stovepipe models into integrated systems," Bennett adds. "We think healthcare will move toward these systems, but they're behind because there's no system to support it."

As healthcare moves from disease-centric to prevention-centric care, the need for real-time technology will increase.

"We're flying blind at this point," Bennett says. Data is "all based on basic determinants, not social, behavioral or genetic factors."

[See also: Mayo Clinic launches genome work]

Bennett believes Cassandra technology, an open source data management system developed by Apache Software Foundation, is key to making population health a success, as it simultaneously tackles three types of data: population health, real-time activities and consumerization.

"The genome data is much more than ingestible data,"  he says, as the additional data makes standardized patient information more useful. Patient data is entered into the platform and aligned with the additional factors to allow queries by genes; Meta data makes that possible.

"We're not just ingesting data, but doing something with it," Bennett adds.

Genomic data holds increasing importance, as it allows institutions to see patients as individuals - not by their common symptoms, Bennett says.

Benett's own son suffers from cystic fibrosis and was almost denied a newer treatment because the doctor was unaware of his son's specific genomic factors. Bennett pushed the doctor to look further, and it was this information that propelled the successful therapy.

He says, it put his doctor into a bad situation.

"If you don't start using data to help our doctors and patients, we're going to struggle as we get more understanding of how determinants like genomes are affecting health," he says.

The biggest challenge for providers isn't necessarily the lack of technology on the market to support a move toward community-based models, but rather bridging the gap between political and business issues.

[See also: Genomics pose 'daunting' test for EHRs]

And healthcare is behind other industries that have successfully made the transition, Bennett says.

"We have to rethink workflows to what other industries have done when shifting to consumer-based models," he continues.

"Health systems are starting to realize it's a data driven industry," Bennett adds. "They should consider technology to support this. They need to think about their data sets and how they support the consumer models of care."

"From my perspective, if they don't consider new technologies, they're going to find it hard to compete without speed and integration."

The successful organizations will be those that advance workflow and move toward real-time because "consumers will be more interested in working with providers that utilize these real-time technologies," says Bennett.