Patient Data Usability Hemorrhage: The 3 overlooked symptoms

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Patient Data Usability Hemorrhage:  The 3 overlooked symptoms

It’s time for data powered revolution in healthcare’ said Todd Park, Nation’s second CTO on a summer morning of May 2012 at the White House. This re-ignited the debates and discussions around healthcare data yet again. Is patient data revolution a distant dream even after 5 years down the lane?

According to a 2017 survey by New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst , hardly 20% of clinicians, healthcare executives and hospital leaders believe that their organization’s application of data is very effective.

Data usability has a direct correlation with data quality and availability. While this sounds pretty basic, challenges in this regard are still very much real.

Let’s look at those factors that are causing data usability hemorrhages:

Duplicate records and overlays

One of the biggest challenges that impede data usability is duplicate records and overlays.  A patient is said to have duplicate records when he/she is identified with more than one medical record. Mostly, such records carry partial information that give a fragmented view of patients’ health information. If one patient’s medical record is overwritten with the information of another patient, the resulting combined inaccurate records are overlays.  Such errors are pervasive in healthcare facilities that heavily rely on paper forms to capture patient information.

Neither duplicate data nor overlays may convey accurate patient information. A research by University of Texas Health Science established that duplicate medical records are associated with a higher risk of missing laboratory results and patients being subjected to unnecessary testing.

Such errors lead to duplicate testing, ineffective treatment, unintended medication, inappropriate care and even claim denials or delayed payments.

Human Errors

On May 6, 2010 around 2:45pm Wall Street had a heart attack when the market plunged by 1000 points in a fraction of seconds. An ‘M’ to ‘B’ keystroke error (typing billion instead of million) shuddered the market with its most costly error of all times.

In healthcare, loss from such an error translates to lives lost. The facilities which rely largely on paper forms to capture patient data have a high possibility of data-entry errors.  In healthcare, critical clinical data like- symptoms, physical signs, orders and progress notes still rely heavily on human entry.

Data generation is at its all-time high in healthcare. Forbes claims that physicians create 2 billion clinical notes and reports a year- that’s 95 new notes every second or 8 million notes a day! Documentation requisites like current reimbursement policies that mandate extensive documentation, further add to the increased probability of human entry errors.

Data in Silos

Information available to the right stakeholder at the right time is a signal of true data usability.  But, overwhelmingly complex nature of healthcare data spread across disparate systems makes usability a big challenge. Unfortunately, around 80% of the healthcare data has little to no value as it remains locked in an unstructured format, states Forbes.

Lack of interoperability is still a reality though the industry has been chasing the holy-grail for quite some time. By interoperability, we mean making patient information timely available to the stakeholders in an intuitive format that will not risk or delay any clinical diagnosis or medical treatment.

Usable patient information means better diagnosis and effective treatment. Amassing high volume of patient data cannot make a difference if the information is not usable.

The upcoming post in the series will briefly discuss on how to fix the aforementioned usability hemorrhages.

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