Beyond the Electronic Health Record

4/29/10

With the passage of health care reform legislation last month, attention has now turned from arguing its merits to understanding its practical implications. In the world of health information technology, or health IT, the electronic health record (EHR) is one focus of this attention, but applications that build on their widespread adoption are where the real transformation in health care will take place.

In 2009, there were more than 1 billion visits to physicians’ offices, outpatient hospitals and emergency rooms. Each visit represents a shoebox of clinical data that’s sitting dormant, untapped, and utterly disconnected from any other clinical data that person may have generated.

There are data in stacks of paper files in doctors’ offices and taking up entire floors of hospitals across the country, data in files submitted in medical claims, data in pharmacy claims, in lab records and so on. As clinical data are created, they remain in various forms, stored in isolated silos. The sum total of these data comprises a staggering amount of untapped actionable health intelligence.

But all that is changing. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $36 billion in incentives for physicians, hospitals and other health care providers to implement a digitized form of medical records. In digitized form, such data can be combined with data from prior visits and used to create a truer, more comprehensive picture of an individual patient. It also can be analyzed in thousands of ways to improve the quality of health care and lower costs.

Digitized clinical data can be analyzed to prevent adverse drug-related interactions, close critical gaps in care, and help those with a stake in health care—from health plans to hospitals to consumers—directly understand the individual and collective health of their constituencies, and create highly personalized treatment regimens.

It’s exciting, but it also can be overwhelming to contemplate both the volume of new data that will deluge the system and its ultimate value to the quality of health care. In fact, many companies I’ve met with – including leading health plan providers, pharmacy benefits managers and more – find themselves paralyzed by … Next Page »

Richard Noffsinger is CEO of Anvita Health, a health care analytics company that provides clinical insights to companies that want to improve the quality of health care and lower the cost. Previously, he served as president and COO of Amicore, and as group industry manager for Microsoft's worldwide health care market. Follow @

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