“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” -W. Edwards Deming
Mr. Deming, an American engineer and statistician, died in 1993, before the advent of what we now call “Big Data.” Were he alive today, I imagine even he would blush at the thought of all the data and information available in our world.
As habitants of the digital era, we don’t just “bring data” – we haul it around by the bucketful.
Every search on Google, “like” on Facebook, and online purchase is recorded and analyzed as data, along with the thousands of other interactions we have on the Internet. And businesses are beginning to take advantage.
In recent years, large companies like Target and Amazon have shown how data can be gathered and used to drive decision-making to increase revenue or decrease costs. Business Intelligence, or the process of taking data and turning it into actionable information for the company, has become a growing trend across all industries. Rather than relying on intuition or subjective experience, businesses are turning to data to determine their course of action.
The healthcare field is no different. It has also seen the emergence of data-based decision-making techniques with the adoption of electronic health record systems in hospitals and medical offices. As the use of such electronic health records has grown, so too has the amount of clinical data being captured.
Having access to more clinical data has improved the healthcare delivery system – for both physicians and patients – in many ways. Here are a few:
First, it allows physicians and their staff to view the entire spectrum of a patient’s care, rather than just looking at data one appointment at a time. Using the electronic health record system, physicians can view all of the tests, screenings, medications and procedures related to their patient, even if that data was recorded by another physician.
This ability can save time, money, and ultimately a patient’s life. For instance, imagine a doctor is giving a routine check-up to a patient known to have diabetes. With electronic health records, the doctor can see whether that patient has received his or her yearly foot exam, and if the patient has not, the doctor can take action then and there – saving the patient another visit and potentially a more serious condition down the road.
Second, comprehensive patient data allow tasks that would otherwise be extremely time-consuming or require extra staff to be done automatically. Think again about the doctor with the diabetic patient, and suppose that doctor wants to know about all of his diabetic patients who need foot exams. Rather than leafing through every patient file, he can filter those patients out of his electronic health record system in seconds.
Having this information readily available enables the provider to make better-informed decisions in efforts to increase the quality of care for the patient.
Third and finally, the ability to generate reports based on clinical data can offer a unique perspective on entire populations in our community. With electronic health records, a medical practice is able to analyze a group of patients and make connections among them.
For instance, now that our doctor knows about all of his patients needing foot exams, he can begin to investigate why these particular people are missing their regular exams. Does this group have anything in common? Do they all live in the same neighborhood? Are they experiencing transportation issues?
Data brings us closer to learning about all of these factors, and we can then initiate campaigns to bring better care to specific patient populations that may otherwise be overlooked.
These developments in data gathering and analysis become even more significant when one looks at the current healthcare landscape. At both the state and national level, medical providers are being encouraged and incentivized to provide the highest quality care to their patients at an affordable cost. Additionally, the introduction of value-based payments – or payments based on patient outcomes – has highlighted the need for practices to monitor and care for larger groups of patients.
Fortunately, our region is ahead of the curve when it comes to gathering and analyzing clinical data. Just like Amazon and Target saw the power of data and latched on to it, our region’s healthcare system is harnessing the power of clinical data and is using it increase quality of care, pass along savings to patients, and learn more about our community.