Clinical Analytics and HIE: Two Technologies Come Together at the Moment of Need

Healthcare Data Makes Quantum Leap – Part One

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.[1]  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.

Consequently, healthcare is looking for tools to help get its arms around this volume of data to re-organize, re-interpret and re-align it for use by multiple stakeholders across multiple institutions and regions. “Clinical analytics and business intelligence tools have emerged as a top priority for hospital IT leaders who are moving towards accountable care adoption, according to a Black Book Rankings survey. The survey finds that more than 1,340 hospital IT leaders nationwide indicated clinical analytics to be their highest priority system for acquisition over the next year. ”[2]

Of course the great booster rocket in all of this has been Healthcare Reform.  It is entirely likely that healthcare would have continued muddling along in its fragmented fashion, building unaligned systems that create, store and deposit unaligned data of limited use. But the incentives built into the physician use of EMRs, and the broader use of clinical information exchange mechanisms, such as health information exchange (HIE), have “forced” the industry to see the light and events are now moving rapidly and relentlessly. In fact, the recently released Meaningful Use Stage 2 rules require, and ONC has announced that it will enforce, cross-vendor data exchanges in an attempt to eliminate “silos or ‘walled gardens’”[3], making the exchange of clinical information not only “nice” but imperative.  Breaking down these silos and garnering collaboration within the vendor community will be an essential step in the process of true transformation of the healthcare delivery system into a system of delivering health.

… Stay tuned for Part Two

[1] John Moore, Founder and Managing Partner, Chilmark Research, “Digging into Analytics,” July 16, 2012

[2] Erin McCann, Associate Editor, Healthcare IT News, “Clinical analytics ‘next big thing’ for health IT,” August 01, 2012

[3] Farzad Mostashari, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, FierceHealthIT, Mostashari: ONC will enforce cross-vendor data exchanges, Julie Bird, August 29, 2012

Rodney Hamilton, MD is the Chief Medical Information Officer at ICA. This blog post was first published on ICA’s HITme Blog.