By Bill Kotraba, vice president, healthcare solutions and strategy, Information Builders.
Data has long been a popular topic in healthcare and is even more so after this year’s HIMSS. The industry is buzzing about the joint CMS and ONC announcement, which proposes a framework to improve interoperability and support seamless and secure access of health information. The pressure is on for healthcare to tackle their data as the two organizations strive to provide patients with the ability to leverage personal information in various applications. And, this pressure will only increase as we look into the future, making it even more imperative that payers and providers address the issue now.
Look more closely, and you will see that with their recent announcement CMS and the ONC are focusing on healthcare organizations’ ability to manage data across the enterprise. Historically, healthcare has worked from siloed applications and data sources with light integration using interface engines. Recently, healthcare organizations have pinned their hopes on leveraging data effectively through huge investments in new EHR platforms. The reality, pointed out by government officials at HIMSS in Orlando, is that this still results in significant challenges for healthcare organizations to manage information across the data value chain.
Although not part of their proposed framework, CMS and the ONC point out the need for better patient mastering across data sources. Organizations hoped their investment in a centralized EHR platform would solve this but that has proven to not be the case. In addition to patient data, healthcare organizations face challenges in mastering physician data, which can have wide impact, including on value-based care initiatives. The joint proposal also highlights that the ability to push back accurate, cleansed data to source systems is critical.
Healthcare needs a unified approach
Using FHIR to stop data blocking and push the industry towards a standards-based approach will help, but it’s not sufficient for the data challenges facing healthcare organizations. In addition to tackling the issues pointed out at HIMSS, healthcare organizations must:
- Onboard significant volumes of data from both inside and outside the organization
- Harmonize millions of codes across as many healthcare transactions
- Standardize and manage industry value sets, data definitions, formula definitions and industry metrics
- Relate data across clinical, claims and financial sources to provide a complete view of episodic care to drive value-based care transformation
A recent survey by Damo Consulting emphasized the continued disconnect between healthcare’s penchant for chasing siloed solutions for the challenge du jour and the necessity for an enterprise data strategy and platform. The top two priorities identified by the survey revolve around having an enterprise foundation for data management, as well as other organizational initiatives like population health and value-based care.
Among the most interesting findings, 79 percent of healthcare executives noted accelerating digital health initiatives as their top priority with 58 percent identifying investing in advanced analytics and AI was the second highest and only other clear priority in the survey. Further highlighting the need for a unified data management approach, 79 percent of healthcare executives see data silos and lack of interoperability as the biggest challenges to digital transformation.
Mounting pressure to tackle data initiatives
Looking to the near future, one of the top issues expected to bubble to the surface is healthcare data privacy and transmission as consumer expectations shift. In fact, HIMSS recently identified it among the industry’s biggest focal points for 2019 in its annual Healthcare Trends Forecast. As a result, healthcare organizations will likely need to prepare for data legislation – like the recently proposed The Health Information Property Act in Oregon, which gives patients certain rights around the use of their de-identified data.
Organizations that have built a single version of the truth with a managed, cleansed and mastered data layer will be in much better position to react to these future data requirements. Those that continue to rely on their EHR vendor or invest in siloed solutions will find themselves supporting an increasingly expensive and cumbersome set of capabilities. The ultimate cost to healthcare organizations will be in the lost opportunities to quickly and efficiently leverage data across the continuum of care to streamline processes and improve quality and reduce costs.