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When asked to describe the state of data in healthcare today, the best way to condense Bryan Bliven's answer is: "We're on the cusp."
Healthcare organizations have dedicated the past four or five years to building a complete digital record, receiving government incentives through the HITECH Act and meaningful use. Now the ability to normalize data is happening, and standards are being created so that data can be shared and value-based care can be achieved.
Despite this progress, Bliven, CIO at the University of Missouri Health Care, in Columbia, Mo., said that when it comes to fully utilizing and harnessing that data, healthcare isn't there yet in terms of "being able to use [data] for performance, quality improvements, really transform how we deliver healthcare. But we really don't have the whole power of the data."
Data in healthcare today is scattered, disorganized and often siloed, he added. "It's still not completely portable, interoperable, yet," Bliven, who is also the vice president of the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, a private and public partnership between the University of Missouri Health Care and Cerner Corp, said.
Health IT advancements
Although barriers may stand in the way of healthcare truly utilizing patient data to its full potential and delivering value-based care, Bliven believes the foundation has been set into place.
Bryan BlivenCIO at the University of Missouri Health Care
Now that patient records have been digitized and new technologies are appearing in the healthcare space to fill the gaps, Bliven said the industry is figuring out how to extract, normalize and model data in a data warehouse, for example. There's also the growth of big data in healthcare, handling it in different types of formats and being able to store large amounts of information.
"The technology has evolved so that this is something that you can invest in now," Bliven said. "What are the unintended functionalities that you can come up with based on having access to that type of data and having the processing power to look and see what's inside of it?"
Technologies like enterprise analytics to manage health systems as well as quality and performance improvement for value-based care are beginning to offer this type of inside peek, he said.
Promising data initiatives
But an equally important piece of the value-based care puzzle is engaging the patient.
One way the University of Missouri Health Care is working to achieve this is by participating in OpenNotes, a national initiative working to give patients access to notes written by their doctors, nurses and other clinicians usually via a web-based portal.
"We've seen advancements with functionalities such as OpenNotes where you're sharing the provider's notes with the patient," Bliven said. "That can really help [the patient] be more involved in their care, and providing them that type of rich information electronically can help move them onto the care team."
Bliven also believes the OpenNotes initiative can help repair the patient-physician relationship, something some in the health IT industry believe is being destroyed by the use of EHRs because doctors are now forced to focus on clicking through the EHR rather than engage with the patient during a visit.
In fact, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-La.) said at the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington DC: "As a physician, but also as the son of a patient and an occasional patient myself, I think that which we should most focus on is the patient-physician relationship. And yet what we have seen with EHRs is almost a tearing apart of them."
Bliven said since they've begun participating in and using OpenNotes, they have received unsolicited comments from patients about how great it is to be able to read their doctors' notes.
"We've always given discharge information and instructions," Bliven said. But giving the patient the ability to review those doctors' notes "and if you have any questions on it, have the ability to ... ask those questions, that can really help to build that relationship and ensure understanding."
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