Rodney Hamilton, MD, CMIO at ICA
It’s an old story: healthcare is awash in data but starved for information. The advent of electronic and digital processing has only accentuated the problem by enabling and encouraging the creation and storage of more data. However, storing, transferring and, above all, making that data usable remains the key nagging issue as ever more data is created and stockpiled. And while even today, many, if not most, physician offices contain vast shelves of handwritten clinical notes on their patients, the relentless advance of electronic clinical information will eventually make those hand-written mountains look like mole-hills by comparison. And what will we have gained?
Because of the sporadic and ad-hoc nature of how IT slowly worked its way into healthcare over several decades, clinical data has been input, displayed and analyzed by countless clinical systems that have no, or very little, alignment with one another. Now, as the exchange of clinical information is increasingly seen as the critical linchpin to improving outcomes and lowering costs, we find many, if not most, clinical datasets to be a mess and very difficult to work with. In fact, with the rapid proliferation of healthcare information technology as a result of recent government programs such as HITECH and the Accountable Care Act, healthcare data is making quantum leaps in volume, velocity, variety and complexity.