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4/16/2012
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6 Ways Healthcare Can Assess Data Strategy

Healthcare organizations' ability to compete will hinge on how well they manage their clinical and financial data, says new CSC study.

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During the next five years, healthcare delivery organizations will either gain a competitive advantage or lose ground based on their ability to make the best use of their data, concludes a report from CSC Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices.

The report, "Transforming Healthcare Through Better Use of Data," states that while healthcare providers need to become more data driven to improve care, reduce costs, and optimize performance, many have not established practices and procedures that will allow them to take advantage of the information they have.

"Hospitals and health systems have more reasons--and more incentives--than ever to become data-driven. Increasingly they are being expected to take on more responsibility for improving the quality and safety of care for patients, improving care outcomes, and tackling healthcare cost inflation," the report said.

The document continued: "Not every provider organization and independent practitioner has the resources, scale, or expertise to launch their own data warehousing and analytics program. But large and medium-sized institutions should be able to assemble a compelling business case. The winners in the coming age will be the organizations that use larger, faster, and more disparate data sets to generate a competitive advantage."

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

According to Jared Rhoads, senior research analyst at CSC's Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices and the report's author, healthcare organizations possess valuable information, such as claims data that documents various aspects of care, including diagnoses, procedures, office visits, medications, and tests ordered, as well as medical records data on observations and lab values. However, the data needs to be organized in a way that improves the delivery of care.

"The goal is to use this data to guide, direct, and inform care in the course of its delivery. In the past, it was good enough to dabble in data for reporting or finance purposes. A dashboard that updated once a day was considered 'high-tech.' In the future, hospitals will use data in real time or near real time to figure out what the best next step is," Rhoads told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Further complicating matters will be the next big wave of patient-related data coming from sources such as mobile health apps and remote patient monitoring devices that will be less structured and less easily integrated into the healthcare IT enterprise.

To prepare for this, the report states that organizations need to assess their data strategy and develop plans in the following six areas:

1. Develop a data governance plan that describes how the organization will collect, maintain, protect, and curate data assets.

2. Establish a data acquisition strategy that ensures data is captured in a usable form. Best practices include consistent metadata documentation and data element classification. Standard taxonomies for demographic fields and medical codes should also be used.

3. Encourage data sharing across the provider, plan, and life sciences communities.

4. A data standardization plan can help providers adhere to common data models so that data from disparate systems can be combined and compared.

5. Plan for data integration, which combines data from internal and external data sources into a single patient-centric data structure. Examples include the merger of patient demographics, conditions, procedures, drugs, and observations from an electronic medical record, along with lab values and diagnostic results from other clinical systems.

6. Develop a data analytics strategy and deploy business intelligence tools that will generate meaningful and actionable insights on clinical and financial operations.

"The more that incentives align around keeping patients healthy and keeping costs under control, the more it will matter that healthcare organizations are delivering effective, safe care the first time around. By that I mean fewer mistakes, fewer adverse events, and fewer readmissions," Rhoads said.

As more data is gathered on provider performance, individuals looking for the best place to receive care will take notice.

"Patients will want to go to the places that rank the highest and have the best outcomes," Rhoads observed. "As we increasingly adopt a pay-for-performance system, healthcare delivery organizations will see the difference in their reimbursement."

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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