Data and its Impact on Health Professions is the theme of the Health Professions Network's Spring Conference, April 14-16, in Columbus, Ohio. In the lead-up to this conference, our previous blogs took a look at major news stories involving big tech's access to healthcare data and controversy surrounding new rules for electronic health records, stories ripped from headlines highly relevant to our conference and healthcare delivery as a whole. In this blog, we invite our conference speakers to set the stage and comment on what they see as data's potential in healthcare delivery, and its challenges.
Q. What most excites you about data's potential in healthcare delivery?
We asked our speakers what excited them most about data's potential in healthcare delivery, and almost all of them had different perspectives and takes—but there was overlap in the potential for care to be better individualized for patients, ultimately using diverse data sets for better patient outcomes.
"The prospect of having enough information to provide patients with more individualized care than ever before [is exciting]," said Christine Chmura, PhD, CEO & Chief Economist of Chmura. "For example, when a doctor can tap into how nutrition impacts cancer medicine efficacy."
Jennifer Garvin, PhD, MBA, RHIA, CTR, CPHQ, CCS, FAHIMA, Director of Health Information Management & Systems Division at The Ohio State University, echoed the sentiment. "Personalizing care," she said. "And bringing multiple kinds of data together to do this more effectively."
Grady Burrows, Director of Health IT Talent at BioEnterprise, touched on the potential for data to educate and impact health consumers outside of traditional healthcare delivery. "The amount of raw data that the average person can access is far better than what they used to be able to access," he said. "With tools today, it can be broken down so that average people can understand it, and apply it to their behavior and decision making."
Simon Lin, MD, MBA, Chief Research Information Officer at Nationwide Children's Hospital, sees data's potential in the here-and-now, especially as his work involves using data and analytics for clinical decision-making. "The exciting part is how we're utilizing data to make decisions," he said. "We've spent a lot of time collecting, organizing and securing data—really doing the foundational statistics. And now with analytics, especially with AI, we have really a lot of power deriving value out of the data."
Dr. Lin used a real-world example of how analytics were being employed at Nationwide Children's Hospital to improve care. "At any one time on the floor we have hundreds of patients, but there are only a few every day that might deteriorate and need a transfer to ICU," he explained. "So, the clinical need is—how can we know which kid is going to deteriorate, and catch that earlier? We are using analytics to predict which kid will deteriorate and catch this before it happens."
Dr. Garvin also touched on the potential for analytics to augment quality improvement and quality assurance processes. "Physicians are now doing quality improvement as part of their practice," she said. "Physicians used to have more assistance in this task, and incorporate more ancillary staff. Now it is much more physician-driven... Going forward, I think that we will be using more analytics to augment these efforts."
Q. What is your greatest concern regarding the use of data in the future, and how would you recommend responding to this concern?
Of course, data's raw potential must also be tempered by realism—not all data sets are created equal, and in the enthusiasm for advancing practice there is also a need for caution.
Our previous blogs touched on privacy concerns, as did Dr. Chmura. "My concern—or my hope—would be that data is able to be kept anonymous in some way," she said, so that insurers wouldn't be able to access information on a person's far relatives to impact their individual premiums, for example.
Grady Burrows, similarly, expressed concern over data's potential to be used—intentionally or otherwise—for ulterior purposes. "As a person of color—wondering where implicit biases might go [is a concern]," he said. "Data isn't unbiased, and we've even seen instances where people are starting to use it for mal-intent. That is the scarier side of data—it yields power."
Dr. Garvin also drew concerns about the quality and potential biases or even mistakes in different data sets. "I see that there are not always mechanisms to ensure that the data is high quality enough to represent the clinical concepts that clinicians need," she explained. "There could be multiple reasons why the data presented is not the correct data for a given patient."
Along the same lines, Dr. Lin stressed the need for greater education and guidance about data as a tool in healthcare delivery. "Using data to make decisions is relatively new, and hasn't been really trained for clinicians, or administration," he explained.
"It's really important to verify the accuracy of data whenever a question presents itself," stressed Dr. Garvin. "If something in the data doesn't make sense: beware."
Join the Health Professions Network in Columbus!
At our Spring Conference, April 14-16, we'll be continuing this discussion about data's potential in healthcare delivery thanks to the excellent sessions lined up by these outstanding experts in health information technology and healthcare quality improvement.
HPN meetings explore the biggest trends affecting non-physician health professionals and the associations, school programs, and credentialing bodies that support them. Continual improvements in healthcare’s data infrastructure have brought us to a critical point where big data and health informatics will quickly have a massive impact on care, and the professions themselves.