Will Data Save Our Healthcare System? 5 Ways Data Could Improve Healthcare

The data will save us

If multiple data sources can be used with business intelligence (BI) to make faster decisions and uncover insights in business, think about what the same technology could do for healthcare.

Sure, there are challenges that come with implementing new technology in an industry riddled with legal, privacy, and compliance requirements, but it’s hard not to think about how great the future of healthcare could be with the right technology.

Will data save our healthcare system? These five ways data could improve healthcare indicate that it’s possible. Because all the cool things businesses use technology for could actually translate into better health outcomes and healthier patients.

Better care and faster, more effective diagnoses

Do you know what’s in your medical records, who has them, or how to access them if you need them? Having your records in one, centralized database, accessible to yourself and your multiple care providers, is not a new concept.

Now, technology can make this concept a reality, since it’s easier to store and access records electronically in the Cloud than it is for everyone to shuffle around paper copies of your records. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 and mandated the use of electronic health records (EHR), adoption of EHR has skyrocketed. (As of 2016, an estimated 75% of physicians use EHR.)

In a fast paced environment, your physician has to make very quick diagnoses and keep moving from patient to patient throughout the day. Having your data in one, centralized place allows your physician to see your full health history at a glance. Perhaps your provider will be able to identify patterns before making a diagnosis (not to mention how having quick access to your health records can be a lifesaver in an emergency). The beauty of having this complete set of health data is that your physician can have the same consistent information, whether it’s your first appointment or your hundredth.

Taking that centralized database and applying predictive analytics and machine learning to the data could be even more powerful. Combining EHR with artificial intelligence (AI) could uncover patterns across all patients, an entire practice, or even geographic regions in order to identify risk factors that can be caught and addressed before they become bigger public health problems.

Fewer prescription medication errors

It is not uncommon for patients to be overmedicated due to a lack of communication or follow-through between patients and physicians. Do you remember all the medications you’ve ever taken? Can your elderly parent or grandparent list every single medication they’re currently taking?

Not being able to recite your current medications and other supplements to the physician who is treating you can easily result in a prescription that works against your other medications. It happens more often than you think and can lead to terrible side effects or even death.

If your physician can easily access your records and run a report on the current medications you’ve been prescribed, a better assessment could be made when deciding which medications are the most appropriate for you. Using data science, your records could be analyzed and flagged if something seems out of place.

Reduction in readmission rates

Readmission rates are one of the biggest, most revealing metrics for determining quality of care. Readmissions cost Medicare billions of dollars (and those dollars trickle down to the people paying for health insurance and all taxpayers ultimately).

Readmissions can happen for a number of reasons, but many of them are avoidable. They can happen when a patient is improperly treated, fails to follow the doctor’s orders, or isn’t given the proper post-care set-up and care instructions.

Many of the above problems can be easily fixed with the help of data. Access to a patient’s data could help the treating physician make more accurate diagnoses, thus preventing the improper treatment of patients. Making patient data accessible to the patient and all of his or her care providers would help with post-care treatment and making it to follow-up appointments. Sending patients home with monitoring devices that collect a patient’s data could help physicians ensure a patient is being well cared for and monitor the patient’s progress so that an intervention can be made if something goes south.

Decrease in inefficiencies and improved outcomes

Data analytics has been helping companies monitor and tweak staffing levels, improve logistics, and manage inventory for years now. It’s no different for the healthcare industry. With data on your side, you can analyze process metrics to look for and correct inefficiencies in both patient care and in operations.

Increased patient engagement

According to the CDC, 86% of our annual health care expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. Yet, chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, are preventable. And patient engagement is the key to that prevention.

As a physician, you can warn patients until they’re blue in the face about their health risks. However, unless they are engaged in their own health care and willing to make lifestyle changes, patients will unfortunately fall victim to these chronic diseases.

The wearables market is poised to grow tremendously in the next five years, making it ripe for patient engagement opportunities. When patients are given an easy and engaging means to monitor and track their health, vast improvements can be made towards prevention – not to mention, it provides valuable data and insight to the treating physicians.

As you can see, with data physicians can:

  • Provide better continuity of care and have a better view of their patients’ medical histories
  • Make better and quicker diagnoses
  • Catch risk factors and make treatment plans before patients develop serious illnesses
  • Reduce readmissions
  • Engage patients in a way that will improve lifestyle habits and improve outcomes

Sounds like a win-win right? We think so.

The challenges

Implementing data analytics and technology into an industry that has strict privacy standards is tough. There are HIPAA regulations to consider and adhere to when it comes to collecting and protecting patient data. But that shouldn’t stop the industry from innovating. The time for embracing data is now! Our nation’s health, its doctors, and our healthcare system will benefit greatly from doing so.

Read firsthand how implementing and streamlining data helped a clinical trials team increase productivity and gain insights.

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