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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Jun 25 2012   9:05PM GMT

Who are the next big data players and what data can they leverage

Posted by: RedaChouffani
BIG DATA, EHR, Electronic health records, Patient health information, Patient health record, PHI, PHR

Almost everyone in the tech world has now been exposed to the term big data.  This is one of the most significant growth areas standing to make a real impact in the health care landscape, a technology trend making good use of existing patient and health data collected within hospital facilities.  As many continue to hoard data that is captured in EHR systems, asset management systems and external sources of data, there is still the question of how all of this data will truly help improve our health care system.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) have a unique advantage when it comes to data access. They typically manage the exchange of PHI from multiple health data repositories across the industry.  While in most cases there is not direct access to the entire data set of patient health records, HIEs technically have the ability to do so if allowed. However, many see that as a major breach of privacy and patient confidentiality unless patient data has been deidentified — data extraction cleared by the connected health organization defined as the source.

But the reality is that there are very few organizations that currently have the potential to warehouse large patient data sets. Though in the market, there are many available entities that have access to, and the ability to store, a significant amount of health information that may be used for big data initiatives:

Personal Health Records:  PHR vendors host patient health information.  This provides them with direct access to patient health records that can be used as source for big data initiatives.

Electronic Health Records with HIE services: Some of the EHR vendors provide PHR and community based HIE services for all their clients.  This facilitates the exchange of information without some of the added costs of special interfaces with HIEs.  By doing so, it enables the EHR vendors access to patient information from provider organizations throughout the country.

Health Information Exchanges: HIEs do receive a significant amount of traffic in the form of exchanged health information and health record requests.  While the data comes from different EHR systems, it is still standardized and both structured and semi structured.

Payers:  By design payers do have access to claims information that holds some of the patient’s information.  And in many cases, insurance companies do store some medical records in an unstructured format relating to certain patient cases.

Patient Registries: Throughout health care system, there are several individual patient registries that allow for patients with specific conditions to capture patient’s health information that meet specific criteria.  These registries tend to have health information about patients with specific conditions, which has significances for scientists that are in need to study patients with specific conditions.

Large Health Systems with EHRs:  With hospitals continuing to grow and merge, EHR systems amongst them are also converging.  This will enable a central repository for patient electronic records that spans across a larger geographic area that crosses state lines.

Labs:  There are several large lab organizations that currently participate and provide access to historical data for patients.  As active connections for many HIEs these entities hold large volumes of data regarding lab orders and results.

ePrescription Hubs:  With only a handful of electronic prescription hubs, much of the nations electronic data is spread across few systems.  This means that patients current and previous medication.  Similar to Lab firms, much of the data can be accessed through HIEs

While so much of the data is fragmented across several different silos, HIEs have the potential to pull all the information together and build one comprehensive data store for patient health information.  One effort that may lead us toward one centralized data repository is for a national health data bank is the NHIN which with big data provide tremendous insights to the overall health and outcome measures at a much larger scale.

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Gustavogar722  |   Jul 24, 2012  8:54 AM (GMT)

EHRs are the way of the future. This is a great post that explains the benefits of EHRs. I am glad to see that you are breakdown the implementation of EHRs. EHR companies are creating intelligent and innovative ways to better benefit the medical community. Allowing for expedited requests, which will inevitably save lives. There are a good amount of devices which support EHR applications. I found a site with three interesting devices ( ). Do you think EHR companies will implement the cloud-like servers in the future? Thank you for this post.


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