Data Integration – Important First Step For Coordinating Patient Care

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Recently, “big data” has become an intimidating buzz phrase in healthcare. Health systems and provider groups are trying to collect large amounts of clinical data and make it meaningful — and they’re finding that the integration and analysis of that data across multiple platforms is anything but simple.

Health systems and provider groups often find clinical data integration a complex, costly and time-consuming undertaking with many roadblocks.  As a result, they are reluctant to pull the trigger on this key first step to value-based care.  Because the majority of EMRs are closed systems — meaning they are not designed to work with one another — health systems are forced to undergo custom coding and must individually write new software for each integration point. Not only is this extremely time consuming, but it is also estimated that health systems can spend more than $100,000 a year on this custom coding process.

Thankfully, there are new approaches that require a fraction of the time and cost. Health care organizations are learning some of the same lessons that were learned some time ago by the airline industry. Instead of having planes fly all over the country in a point-to-point fashion, the large airlines use a hub and spoke approach to limit the number of flights that are needed to fly between smaller cities. Health care can use the same approach through a new turnkey data exchange known as “interfacing.” 

With interfacing, health systems are automating business processes and extracting data from hundreds of different EMR and practice management systems regardless of where the data is hosted.  Interfacing happens seamlessly and without disrupting practice operations or patient care, meaning that the practitioner’s workflow is not impacted by the data exchange and collection — and implementation takes days or weeks, not months or years.

Once data is extracted, aggregated and normalized, a “hub” is needed to present clinically integrated data in a useable view at the point of care.  This can include using the information to see a patient’s entire care profile with insights from across the continuum of care, including primary and specialty care, hospital, SNF, lab, pharmacy, and even state-based immunization systems — physicians can address both the acute and longitudinal health needs of a patient to close gaps in care, facilitate transitions and ease planning.

This is a major goal of Patient-Centered Medical Homes, and a key driver of commercial ACO arrangements starting to take hold across the country. As health care moves from volume- to value-based care, physicians need to move beyond the EMR to access encounter data from within and outside the health system, as well as claims information from the payer.

Physicians need tools and workflows to “provide better care at lower cost for people with multiple health and social needs,” as well as the ability to identify populations in need of additional interventions such as transitions in care, disease management and medication management. 

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