Clinical data often undervalued, underutilized
■ A study of health care organizations and health plans found that most are not prepared for the onslaught of data expected under meaningful use requirements.
By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted July 12, 2010
Electronic medical records carry the promise of physicians being able to analyze patient data to identify trends and patterns that might help patient care.
But health care organizations are failing to see that potential, because they are dealing with data overload that is expected to worsen as more of them work toward meaningful use of electronic medical records.
That's the conclusion of a report published by HIMSS Analytics on behalf of Anvita Health, a clinical analytics engine vendor. The report authors spoke to 10 chief medical officers and chief medical informatics officers from health care organizations and payer groups.
EMR adoptions are expected to accelerate, thanks to incentives offered under last year's economic stimulus package. To qualify for those incentives, health care organizations will be expected to meet meaningful use criteria, which require them to collect, report and analyze data that many aren't using today.
"There's going to be a lot more data, and that's going to have its own challenges within itself," said Rich Noffsinger, CEO of San Diego-based Anvita.
"People perceive the stimulus to be the final chapter [of maximizing clinical data use], but I believe it to be closer to the beginning of the book," he said. "The next phase will be to really start to analyze it and understand what's going on and measure it in a much broader and comprehensive way."
But, Noffsinger said, meaningful use ultimately will bring more clarity to the data as the information will be in a standardized format. He further expects meaningful use to make it easier for health care organizations to capture data, since it will be accessible from one place and in one format.
For physicians in small practices, there likely will be a greater dependency on vendors to help them leverage use of EMR systems to meet data reporting requirements, Noffsinger said. When it comes to data collection and analyses, there likely will be a greater reliance on health information exchanges, he said.
Much of the analysis that occurs today is retroactive, meaning that little data are being used for real-time decision-making at the point of care.
Participants in the HIMSS Analytics study said they examine data to evaluate a specific patient, a population, a health care network or physician, and the prevalence or treatment of a specific disease.
"What stood out and what was key, but at the same time wasn't surprising, was the diversity on the perception of what analytics, and clinical analytics specifically, is," Noffsinger said. "The range or scope of what people and professionals view as analytics or clinical analytics specifically was quite broad."
The study said better use of clinical analytics would lead to better evidenced-based solutions that can be utilized at the time of care.