This article originally appeared in Electronic Health Reporter
Healthcare has been changing rapidly for the last 60 years and advances have now reached record speed, including in the realm of data intelligence. In trying to keep pace as well as to protect and advance their own businesses, many processes and systems have understandably been organized into silos. That era must come to a close.
Care coordination teams need rich collaboration of data and must now be connected. Hospitals, clinics, home health care workers, primary care physicians, vendors, and others must speak with each other, in the same language, and completely share patient data with an open, collaborative attitude. The industry is all abuzz with this uncharted territory called interoperability. It is clear that data warehouses, now bursting with valuable information, must be streamlined for three very simple reasons: patient safety, cost-effective healthcare delivery and overall population health management. A happy byproduct when data intelligence becomes actionable and systems work collaboratively is a financial benefit, but as a physician, I believe excellent patient care always wins the day, and should be the driving factor.
Consider that about one-fifth of Medicare beneficiaries are re-admitted within 30 days of discharge and upwards of one-third are re-admitted within 90 days. One study by the American College of Physicians showed that 20 percent of patients have a complication within three weeks of leaving the hospital, more than half of which could have been prevented. In all, Medicare spends $26 billion annually on re-admissions, $17 billion of which could be “preventable.”
At the risk of this being looked at as “just a financial issue,” consider also that hospitalization is generally a marker for severe illness. Our goal is a healthier population. As we (patients and providers) succeed collectively with hospital treatment and post-acute care, then re-admissions will naturally decrease, and patients will live healthier, more satisfied, lives. Ultimately, this is our goal.
Appropriate, timely sharing of vital patient information will not only address re-admission rates that have clearly become egregious, but improved collaboration of data needs to happen to better inform decision making at the point of care. Without a keen eye to patient safety and success, it is too easy for details to slip through the cracks. All too often, history has demonstrated that hand-off points are the riskiest for failures in patient care.
Nearly everyone has a story where the current system has failed patients — just ask Jennifer Holmes, our CEO. Her father’s healthcare team made an error in medication that ultimately cost him his life. Similar medication errors and decreased duplicate testing can be avoided when a patient’s entire care coordination team has visibility into the data – all the data – to improve care efficiencies and diagnoses.
But all this sharing and playing nice in the sandbox is easier said than done.
Collaboration: Easier Said Than Done?
It’s mind boggling to realize there are more than 100 big data analytics vendors providing business intelligence technologies to hospitals and healthcare systems. While it may sound overwhelming, healthcare is actually approaching a time when it’s possible and even easy to grasp data from nearly everywhere. This data – from the past, present, and even forecasted into the future; from inside and outside of a hospital’s four walls; from different information systems – can now be leveraged with powerful tools and the result is improved outcomes.
Our industry-leading products not only set a high standard for improving operations, but also offer unprecedented data intelligence to help improve a hospital’s business and patient decisions. Additionally, more than ever, we are creating visibility outside the four walls, by keeping patients connected to the hospital after discharge. By coupling technology, process improvement, and a clear view across the patient care continuum, we facilitate the way to navigate and accomplish more efficient healthcare decision-making. We can be the connective tissue between nearly any vendors and systems, increasing the value of existing investments through synergy between technologies.
HHS: Interoperability of Data
This interconnectivity is precisely the scenario Sylvia M. Burwell, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, spoke about when she announced at this year’s HiMSS conference major new commitments to improve the way electronic health records work. Burwell noted that data in this new connected reality must contain three specific characteristics: consumer access, zero information blocking and standards must be federally recognized, compliant, and privacy- and security-enabled.
Such accessible and clearly visible data allows health systems to have frank discussions and brings everyone to consensus. Unfortunately, many information systems offer poor reporting and often function in silos, limiting visibility. When data intelligence can break down these barriers, healthcare overall will reap big rewards by:
- providing overall hospital or health system real-time visibility to executives
- improving management of high risk patients, and those at future risk
- positively impacting length of stay, discharge timeliness and other patient flow issues
- addressing compliance and safety issues before they’re etched in stone and
- increasing overall efficiencies and business success in health systems.
The ability to more fully leverage data can lead to all of these great outcomes. As we usher in this new era of robust, real-time interoperability and shared data intelligence not only do healthcare systems and hospitals reap financial benefits, but patients get improved and even life-saving care coordination.
If the clarion call really is to provide higher quality care at a better cost, then I can think of no more effective approach. Our commitment should be to eliminate silos, improve interoperability and exchange of data, and maximize visibility and decision-making power.