Embrace the data democracy

Peter Stone, senior solution architect at Hyland Software, says that investing in a new data democracy will enable hospitals to unlock the power of their most valuable asset and drive change at every level of care delivery.
06:54 AM

The modern hospital is a data rich environment, but the data we currently collect and store is simply about patients; it’s not being used for patients. Data becomes locked away in siloes, where its transformative power is never fully realised.

The answer lies in the creation of what Hyland Healthcare calls a ‘data democracy’, in which patient information is securely shared across platforms and between systems to deliver high-quality, personalised care - a concept that was at the heart of the European Commission’s 2012 eHealth Action Plan.

According to Peter Stone, senior solution architect at Hyland Healthcare, the thought that healthcare is about to be transformed by the huge amount of new data produced ignores basic reality: the healthcare industry is already a data rich environment. The problem, he says, is that this data is locked away. Trapped in proprietary system siloes, this data is simply never used to its full potential.

“When we work with providers, we often discover a huge variety of information systems being used in one hospital,” he says. “In many cases these have been procured, designed and implemented around clinicians - in some cases defined by a single use case. This has resulted in a fragmented and unfocused information architecture that is as unique and individual as every hospital trust.”

The data trap

No matter how effectively these individual systems continue to function, information remains trapped within them. This isn’t just inefficient, explains Stone, it is also costly. Staying on top of this data mountain might be a practical challenge for CIOs and teams who dedicate time and resources to managing proprietary systems, but maintaining licenses and support can also demand a significant investment in money and time, which could be better spent elsewhere. Plus, it can lead to one of the biggest problems: vendor lock-in.

At this point, you may find that you’re reliant upon existing vendors who can choose to increase costs arbitrarily. Migrating the data currently locked away in siloes to a new platform can be a costly and time-consuming process.

“Healthcare IT is shifting as models of consultation, treatment and care change,” says Stone. “Over the next decade, we will see episodic patient care transform into a focus on continuous population management; a reduction of face-to-face consultations and a rise in the number of virtual interactions; and an AI-powered shift toward data being used to provide insight and automated diagnosis and care.”

Stone outlines one example, in which Hyland Healthcare is supporting a UK-based world-leading cancer centre, helping to bring its data to life and drive care improvements. This institution began its data transformation journey by developing a digital medical records strategy and procuring an ‘Enterprise Content Management’ system.

As part of its digital strategy, Hyland has helped the centre select a Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) to provide a standards-based access to medical images, implement an enterprise viewer and link all of this information to the organisation’s content management system.

As a result, a busy consultant can now access a complete digital snapshot of a patient’s records, unlocking all the associated benefits. If they choose to, they can navigate seamlessly between radiology and cardiology images within a single interface.

“The key to unlocking the potential for data is in making it accessible,” says Stone. “Content needs to be classified, controlled and codified to ensure its full value is realised now, and in the future.”

Sustainable planning

Stone suggests that many data sharing issues are the result of short-term thinking. To create a genuine data democracy, CIOs should focus on building a sustainable platform not for the next five years but for the next 25years.

Some hospitals are already becoming wise to this and building sustainable foundations. In maximising the power of its data, another Hyland client, a UK-based acute trust, has chosen to underpin its departmental systems with a VNA, allowing other specialities the ability to store and share information to this archive.

Using standards like XDS, each department is breaking out of a silo-mentality, powering data transformation within the trust that engages and inspires other specialities. Data can be shared with clinicians working across the trust’s three sites, standardising and improving the care provided to the 420,000 residents it serves.

Stone says that CIOs managing existing systems should focus in the short term on developing a process for unlocking the data they already have. The outcome should involve centralising patient, clinical and business content into one standards-based location. If they are investing in new systems, these should publish and receive updates in standard formats .

Ultimately, he says, building a sustainable data democracy for the future involves creating a data-rich legacy that’s safe and secure, and above all promotes improvements to patient care.

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