HIT

4 Keys to Accurate and Standardized Healthcare Data

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Accurate and standardized data. It sounds a bit aspirational, doesn’t it? The struggle of interoperability and standardized healthcare data is an ongoing battle. With well-documented barriers, it isn’t clear when healthcare data will become more accessible and standardized. According to some industry experts, the lack of healthcare data standardization is a key barrier to interoperability in the healthcare industry.

While barriers are often high, the advantages of standardized data are significant. Benefits can range from taking less time for statistical analysis to requiring less oversight and resource allocation. Regardless of the application, from clinical trials to supply chain management, data is king when it comes to saving money.

While an individual or an entire organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle all data standardization and interoperability challenges within healthcare, these issues are still worth addressing, even if on a smaller scale. By developing a model for standardizing your data for a small subset, you can create a blueprint for success.

Four keys to developing accurate and standardized data

1. Capture data from disparate sources

For your database to contain all of the most relevant, accurate and up-to-date data, the database must capture that information from various sources. For different use cases, sources can range from patient intake forms to electronic health records (EHRs) to CRM systems. Across applications, the ability to capture this data through integration is crucial to data standardization.

2. Reconcile data

If different sources have different values for a record, two things need to happen. First, no duplication should occur. Second, the most accurate or up-to-date record should become the ‘master record’. For example, if the patient Sally Ride changes her last name to Morris and has records that contain both her current and previous name, then the following must happen: you must have a process to determine which record is up-to-date; the accurate record must become the ‘master’ record; and thirdly, any duplicates containing the outdated name must be deleted.

3. Data mapping and normalization

When standardizing data, it’s important to determine what will be normalized. This approach will determine which key pieces of data can be used across applications. To aid this effort, we recommend that you develop a normalization matrix. Additionally, you should create or refine your data mapping, which describes the relationships between different entities in your database. This allows you to map your “dirty data” to new, standardized fields and values. By creating an accurate data mapping, you can avoid repeating old mistakes in the future. Click here to learn more about creating a data model (also known as an entity relationship diagram).

4. Consistency is key

Data mappings, data normalization and data cleaning result in consistency. Once data is standardized and clean, it can be easily used across a myriad of applications. Some common applications in healthcare include clinical data used for digital health apps and intake protocols for provider schedules. Applications are most effective when powered and empowered by accurate data, which translates to improved patient outcomes and significant cost savings for health systems. 

These four steps won’t solve all of the healthcare industry’s data issues. However, they can help you start to solve your own organization’s data issues. With standardized, clean data, you can make better business decisions across departments. Additionally, you can save significant time for reporting, and can better explain and back up the value that your organization brings its clients. By tidying up your own data, you are doing your part in making healthcare work better for all.

How technology can motivate patients to take an active role in their personal health journey

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Who’s the most important part of a patient’s healthcare delivery team? The physician certainly plays an enormous role as primary advisor. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are also necessary, as are the many individuals that run the operational and payor elements of any healthcare business.

But the reality is that the most important part of any healthcare delivery team is, in fact, your patient – and patient experience plays a critical role in overall engagement and outcomes. 

Technology in healthcare is empowering patients in ways we never imagined. In many ways, technology has made the healthcare experience easier and more rewarding through tools such as online scheduling, patient portals, virtual doctor visits and compliance monitoring. These all play a part in generating positive experiences and enabling patients to take an active role in their personal health journey. By encouraging positive pro-health behaviors, we can ultimately help improve outcomes. 

Here are a few tools that are empowering patients to take an active role in their health journey, positively impacting behaviors and outcomes. 

Online Scheduling
Why is it, after all this time, that making an appointment is still a hassle? According to a 2014 Accenture study, it takes as much as eight minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone, and at least 30 percent of that time is spent on hold. It’s no wonder that patients dread calling their doctor’s office.

Online scheduling is attractive to both patients and providers because of the ease of use, but it’s actually much more than just scheduling. Online scheduling tools, such as DocASAP, promote positive behavior and encourage patients to take ownership of their health journey. 

They enable patients to see the right doctor, at the right place, in a timely manner. But they also help providers collect the necessary information required to decide which physician a patient should see, when and where they should be seen and how appointments impact physician scheduling.

Online scheduling is becoming much more valuable because it improves the patient experience, leads to positive behaviors and provides valuable data for providers that allow them to make additional improvements to the experience over time. 

Patient Portals
These “one-stop health shops” help patients stay informed about all aspects of their health and enhance patient-provider communication. Patients can proactively reach out to their clinical teams with simple medical questions, request prescription refills, access detailed medical history and much more. These portals create a virtual space where patients can develop relationships with their own personal clinical team, regardless of where the team members are located – something that is difficult to recreate in the physical world. By creating this connection between the patient and health team, patients feel as if the team is personally invested in their health outcomes.

Virtual Doctor Visits
Patients and doctors alike know that coming into the office isn’t always necessary. Thanks to technology, some patients no longer need to travel to see a doctor – they can use their computer or tablet for a virtual appointment. This is an increasingly valuable tool for patients in rural areas, patients with limited mobility or patients that require recurring readings and check-ins. Again, the easier it is for patients to access a doctor, the more likely they are to reach out when something isn’t right – or to maintain a series of appointments designed to monitor for any changes in health. 

Compliance Monitoring
It’s not uncommon for patients to forget to take a medication, but new tools are being used to track and improve compliance behaviors, leading to better outcomes. For example, patients can track their activities online, often through a patient portal, and the results will immediately be accessible to their doctors. Automated hovering through tools such as “smart” pill bottles can also help patients better manage their own health. A caregiver or physician can be alerted if a patient misses a dose, helping the patient stay on track and learn more positive behaviors. 

At the end of the day, the real success of healthcare technology will be how providers are able to “package” and promote these tools as part of each patient’s personal health journey. Without context and an understanding of how the tools fit, patients may see them simply as another obstacle. 

But with proper interfaces, integrations, training and use cases, technology can drive better physician-patient relationships, overall patient satisfaction and loyalty. The ability to provide a consistent and positive experience brings patients closer to their providers, builds trust and encourages personal engagement – all of which play an important role in achieving better outcomes.
 

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Dr. Ronald Barg

Penn Medicine

Is your IT department a strategic hero?


Hospitals and health systems are moving from being a cost center to being a strategic differentiator. However, this pace of transforming IT from a Keeping The Lights On (KTLO) cost center to a strategic enabler is slow. 

We recently surveyed 100 CIOs from the nation’s top health systems to get a feel for what the typical CIO of a large health system looks like and to better understand how CIOs are equipped to deal with the new age of healthcare IT.

The majority of top health system CIOs have backgrounds in running large system integration organizations. The jury is still out on how these CIOs will retool themselves to deliver strategic differentiation in the age of real time decision enablement and information flow. 
 

Average Age:

We started with a simple proxy of CIO readiness: Age. While the typical age of leaders in core technology companies in silicon valley is trending lower - based on our study, the average age of CIOs was slightly unexpected: nearly three quarters (70%) are over the age of 50, and close to 20% over the age of 60. The shift in HIT of moving to a more strategic position could be the reason for this statistic. It is becoming increasingly obvious that executives at health systems are realizing that IT leaders need to be more involved in the boardroom and not just from a “review and approval of large IT projects” standpoint. Now more than ever, it’s important for CIOs to work with their peers in identifying and formulating strategy on forward-thinking technology that can improve and automate business processes.

Number of years at the current health system:

What we found interesting about the data in the graph above was the lack of longevity these top CIOs had at their current position: Five of 54 CIOs who have been at the health system for five years or less did not start off as a CIO, meaning that they worked their way up to the leader position. Since the IT department has the most constituents and bear the most burden of maintaining core functions of a hospital, it may be becoming more common to bring in new eyes and ideas to help move the IT functions of a health system forward. Another thought is that IT leaders need to have some experience in implementing change management because they have to bring departments together in order to be successful in running all the technology of a health system. By switching health systems after a series of years, more experience and exposure to best practices from other environments is helping to propel this change. Possibly, these new best practices are being learned and are more common that the new phase of IT is more than just a systems integration function. 
 

Non-IT Experience:

A small minority (18%) of the CIOs surveyed had non-IT experience throughout their professional careers. These non-IT positions were medical/clinical (41%), operations (29%), consulting (24%) and project management (6%). While having a tremendous amount of experience in information technology is important, not having other business knowledge and experience can be somewhat crippling. Clearly, it is imperative for CIOs to have knowledge about infrastructure, platforms and integrations, but having experience outside of the IT world is just as important. The fact that can make or break a solution is knowing not only how to run the solution and keep it running but also knowing if the solution actually solves the problem and is realistic for its use case. When IT leaders have had additional experience outside of the IT realm, it can be very useful when evaluating technology solutions utilized 24/7 in a health system such as clinical solutions.
 

Non-healthcare experience:

Close to 60% of the CIOs have not had experience outside of the healthcare industry. The majority of the CIOs who have non-healthcare experience held those positions early in their careers and made the transition to healthcare shortly after. The industry has seen a recent trend of hiring executives outside of healthcare to bring in different perspectives on improving operations and the patient experience. Having a different view from another industry that is more technologically advanced than healthcare could be very important in the near future. As health systems compete more and more, new perspectives will help differentiate them from the rest. The same is true with IT. Even though technology is technology, CIOs need to be at the forefront of new and innovative advances that could help their organization. Instead of being the gatekeeper, the IT department should be the gate enablers and lead the guidance and support of useful technology for their peers and constituents.

Employed at more than two organizations prior to the current role:

Of the 62% that have worked for two other organizations outside of their current health system, 50% have worked for companies outside of healthcare. This could be another testament as to how health systems are bringing in more talent from other industries and different types and sizes of organizations. While this statistic shows dedication and loyalty to an organization, it could also promote the “this is how we have always done it” mentality which is common for people to have when they have worked at an organization for a long period of time. Fortunately through the increased usage of analytics, IT leaders are getting past the preference for experience over data. The utilization of and reliance on analytics is ever present and will not be losing importance anytime soon, if ever.