Data, Data Everywhere, But It’s Still Confined In Silos

By B.J. Boyle, vice president and general manager of post-acute insights, PointClickCare.

B.J. Boyle

As every nurse, physician, clinical case manager, and healthcare IT professional knows well, we have passed the stage in which locking up patient data is an effective care practice. In fact, ineffective data siloing can slow down operations and can drastically and negatively impact patient care, as well as put unnecessary strain on an already overtaxed workforce. In short, data silos are a great barrier to realizing a fully implemented state of interoperability

We must unlock — and importantly, share — critical health data to improve the quality of patients’ care throughout their medical journey.  Data sharing will improve efficiencies in our nation’s health facilities by reducing readmissions, reducing negative drug interactions, and improving care to decrease patient length-of-stay, to name a few. Acute providers know that reducing readmissions is critical in a value-based payment environment because the penalties can be detrimental to the financial health of the facility. 

That makes the need to share data quickly and efficiently more pressing than ever. Only by embracing technological innovations and sharing data can care providers see a holistic view of the patient — from potential injuries and emotional challenges to drug interactions and comorbidities.

That’s not to say that keeping up with demand while offering high-quality patient care will be an easy task. But we know it certainly isn’t possible with the way things are. 

Further, by accessing data about previous patient outcomes, case managers can help patients and their families determine the right treatment facility for them, increasing the effectiveness of referrals and increasing the chances that your facility will become the preferred provider. When patients are matched with the right facility for their specific needs the first time, their recovery time and health outcomes will improve. That’s good for everyone: decreasing costs and increasing hospital ratings by reducing readmissions is a win-win. 

More confident care

Data that has been removed from silos and integrated into a cohesive and actionable digital chart allows providers to follow their patient’s journey post-discharge, improving the speed and quality of information exchange with skilled nursing and acute care facilities, which leads to more confident care. 

Modern EHR technologies and cloud-based solutions can finally make interoperability possible and can increase efficiency so providers can stop waiting by the fax machine and instead get back to doing what is most important: helping patients heal. 

Patient discharges, for example, can be extraordinarily labor-intensive and are further complicated when they are transferred to a post-acute care provider. As a result of the inherent complexities, hefty paperwork and need for seamless transitions, manual processes, a lack of transparency and data silos can cause significant negative impacts on patient health and frustration for families and providers alike.

The cloud-based technology we need already exists to assist with such paperwork, cutting down discharge time and allowing providers to get back to the myriad of other tasks awaiting them. Faster discharges mean more free hospital beds, helping with overall efficiency and an improved bottom line. 

More information sharing between clinics also means patients can make informed decisions about their own health. Both patients and physicians or case managers will have a full picture of both acute and chronic issues while referrals can be made more effectively based on past results of patients with similar conditions.

When you think about it, using integrated technology to share success rates is a no-brainer. People research their meals on Yelp before going to dinner, or read reviews on a pair of shoes before buying them, so why shouldn’t patients be equally as informed about something as important as their health in real-time?

Data sharing can also effectively eliminate issues like drug or medication problems. Researchers estimate that nearly half of all seniors between the ages of 70 to 79 take five medications a day. A patient might be given his or her medication twice—or perhaps not at all—because their care information is siloed between facilities. It’s a problem that can easily be solved.

We know that outdated, labor-intensive processes that involve manually transmitting data to separate servers doesn’t make sense in a cloud-based world, especially when it comes to solving a crisis we know is coming. While a piecemeal data strategy might have worked in the past, we can’t afford to be less than buttoned up now or in the future.

With the anticipated increase in demand for skilled nursing and acute care services, innovative and integrated data systems are critical. Increased interoperability means patients and providers can make informed decisions, quality care is improved, and paperwork-heavy tasks are simplified, improving hospital and clinic efficiency and making life easier whether we’re the patient, caregiver, or provider. 

We already live in a data-driven world, but it’s up to us to embrace a better way to take care of our patients’ health information now and in the future. 


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