Exploring Data Informatics in Healthcare

Jason Lee
Jason Lee

Guest post by Jason Lee, healthcare and security forums director, The Open Group.  

The healthcare industry produces an abundance of data that, we are beginning to understand, can be used in a variety of ways to improve the health and wellness of populations and the quality and efficiency of Healthcare delivery to patients. Unfortunately, there are substantial (but not insurmountable) barriers to overcome.  To take just one example, as mobile medical devices and wearables collect personal health information, how will these data be exploited to achieve the goals of improved health and wellness?

Health informatics professionals—in collaboration with many stakeholders in the healthcare system — build the capability for collecting and warehousing large amounts of data, but a “new breed” of data experts is needed to analyze and meaningfully interpret the data to produce useful, capability-expanding knowledge.  A new workforce, with these skills, will help turn healthcare information into action and improve, outcomes and quality and reduce risk and overall costs.

One of the key issues when it comes to healthcare data is the lack of interoperability in the industry and, more often than not, the different parts of the data puzzle are not fitting together. The information from wearable devices, for example, can be used to keep people well – but only if the data so collected is properly integrated with additional clinical/personal data located in providers’ electronic medical records and payer’s administrative database. The skills of the recently trained data analyst, combined with the proven skills of healthcare informaticians, will increasingly help ensure increased interoperability.

Newly minted data analysts are trained in numerous graduate level programs, such as those offered at University of California, Berkeley or North Carolina State University, or dozens of other universities in the US and elsewhere. Still, nationally and globally, we are far from meeting the demand for data analytics professionals.

Finally, it is critical to remember that the training deficit is not limited to those who perform the collecting, building, analyzing and interpreting of large data sets.  There are multiple layers of management—including C-suite executives—who need to be able to understand and act on the basis of the information produced.

The free flow of data, formation and adoption of common processes is also holding back key stakeholders from using the wealth of healthcare data available to its fullest potential. For decision-makers, even if they are able to hire the right data analysts, they need to establish a common language to communicate and organize this data among partners and other stakeholders. This is driving the need for more collaboration throughout the industry to create a universal standard that clearly outlines how this information is to be communicated.

With a little “tech” push, and the ability to engage data with an actionable approach, the Healthcare industry is set up to radically change the wellness of the public and the quality of care of individuals. By adopting new data standards and a seamless interoperability approach, the healthcare industry can introduce a new wellness standard that could ultimately save lives.

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