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March 3, 2023

Harnessing Healthcare Data to Drive Quality Patient Care

Compared to other industries, healthcare is falling behind in its ability to aggregate and apply data effectively. In fields like finance and e-commerce, for instance, businesses are using advanced analytics to glean insights from vast amounts of data, ultimately improving customer experiences and driving growth. However, in healthcare, the ability to collect and analyze data has been hindered by a range of factors, such as privacy laws, a lack of standardization, and siloed systems.

This post considers the things that limit our ability to harness the power of data in healthcare and also explores ways in which we are managing to improve care quality using data. We’ll explore: 

  1. Data Aggregation Improves Quality of Experience Across Industries
  2. Why Healthcare is Falling Behind in Utilization of Available Data and Technology
  3. Where Healthcare is Utilizing Data Effectively
  4. What Can Healthcare Professionals Do To Increase Data Utilization in Their Facilities? 

Data Aggregation Improves Quality of Experience Across Industries

A recent study from Stanford University refers to healthcare as “an industry under transformation,” and data/technology adoption is one of the major areas they highlight for growth. While data aggregation has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by enabling personalized treatment, predicting and preventing disease outbreaks, and improving patient outcomes, progress has been slow. Moreover, the sheer volume of data in healthcare makes it a uniquely challenging problem. With sensitive patient data at stake, regulations around data sharing and privacy must be taken seriously, but those protections may ironically be hampering effective healthcare for the very patients they seek to protect.

Consumer data aggregation and application has had a significant impact on many industries, including:

  • E-commerce: Retailers use consumer data to personalize the shopping experience, recommend products, and optimize pricing strategies. Amazon is a prime example of a company that has leveraged consumer data to improve its offerings.
  • Financial Services: Banks and financial institutions are using consumer data to analyze spending patterns and credit risk, enabling them to make better lending decisions and offer personalized financial products to customers.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Advertisers are using consumer data to create targeted and personalized ads, improving the effectiveness of their campaigns. Social media platforms like Facebook and Google are known for using consumer data to serve relevant ads to users.
  • Travel and Hospitality: Companies in this sector are using consumer data to personalize travel experiences, offering customized recommendations based on past behavior and preferences. Airlines, for example, are using data to optimize pricing and route planning to better meet customer demand.

Overall, the aggregation and application of consumer data have enabled companies to improve customer experiences, increase operational efficiency, and drive revenue growth in a variety of industries. But when it comes to healthcare data, there are unique challenges standing in the way of the same kind of widespread personalization of care. 

Why Healthcare is Falling Behind in Utilization of Available Data and Technology

Despite the abundance of healthcare data generated daily, healthcare providers face challenges in utilizing this data effectively. A study from RBC Capital Markets notes that “By 2025, the compound annual growth rate of data for healthcare will reach 36%. That’s 6% faster than manufacturing, 10% faster than financial services, and 11% faster than media & entertainment.” 

Some of the key factors hampering the broad application of aggregation benefits include:

  • Data silos: Healthcare data is often siloed in different systems and formats, making it difficult to access and integrate. Providers use different Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems or data storage systems, leading to fragmentation and inaccessibility of data.
  • Lack of interoperability: Even when innovation occurs, many developers build standalone systems inside hospitals or healthcare networks. The development of one-off, homegrown technology helps for a while, but ultimately leads to issues with data sharing outside the original intended network. Lack of standardization in data formats, data exchange protocols, and data quality can result in incomplete or inaccurate data being exchanged.
  • Concerns around data privacy/security and regulatory barriers: Healthcare data is highly sensitive, and concerns around data privacy and security can limit the sharing of data across organizations and the use of data for research purposes. It will take some kind of legislation at the highest levels of government to sort out the complicated paradox of consumer privacy risks and benefits.
  • Resistance to change: Resistance to change is a major factor that can hamper the ability of healthcare providers to utilize healthcare data effectively. Providers may resist changes in workflows and processes that are necessary to effectively use data, leading to a lack of adoption and utilization of data. Additionally continued reliance on paper record keeping hinders the advancement of beneficial data aggregation and analysis tools.

Addressing these challenges will require a collaborative effort by healthcare providers, policymakers, and technology innovators to develop standards for interoperability, improve data quality, provide resources for data analytics, ensure data privacy and security, and promote a culture of change and innovation. Change is slow, thanks to so many factors at play, but that doesn’t mean advancements aren’t being made. 

Where Healthcare is Utilizing Data Effectively

The healthcare industry has access to a wealth of data about patients, including medical records, lab results, and health monitoring data collected from wearable devices. And while advancement is slow, there have been dramatic improvements in the ways data is being harnessed to provide higher quality patient care. 

  • Advanced analytics: Advanced analytics techniques, such as machine learning and predictive modeling, help healthcare providers identify patterns in patient data and predict health outcomes. This enables providers to offer personalized treatment plans and improve patient outcomes.
  • Electronic health records (EHRs): EHRs provide a centralized location for patient data, allowing healthcare providers to access and share patient information easily. EHRs can also be used to analyze patient data and identify trends over time.
  • Data interoperability improvements: Healthcare providers often use multiple systems and tools to collect patient data, which can make it difficult to integrate and analyze the data effectively. Improving data interoperability, or the ability of systems to exchange and use data, can help providers access and analyze patient data more efficiently.
  • Secure patient data sharing: Patient data is sensitive and must be protected to maintain patient privacy. However, securely sharing patient data can enable providers to offer better care and improve outcomes. Healthcare providers on the cutting edge have implemented secure data sharing protocols and standards to ensure patient data is protected.
  • Patient-generated health data (PGHD): Wearable devices and other monitoring tools provide valuable data about patient health and behavior outside the healthcare setting. Providers can use PGHD to track patient progress, identify health trends, and adjust treatment plans accordingly, addressing concerns across a variety of modalities from heart health to sleep and nutrition.

What Can Healthcare Professionals Do To Increase Data Utilization in Their Facilities? 

It is no secret that implementing technology from companies like Enzee can ultimately result in workflow efficiencies as well as cost savings, on top of better data collection and utilization. The problem is that in today’s severely time-constrained healthcare environment, technology adoption is met with resistance because of the inevitable ramp-up and learning period. The simple truth is that learning to use a new technology efficiently takes time and effort, something many healthcare providers don’t feel they can spare. That means that the ultimate improvement of healthcare quality will require cooperation and coordination between administrators, providers, and technology producers. 

  • Healthcare administrators must find ways to create the opportunity for providers to learn new tools and technologies, and must champion adoption within their facilities.
  • Healthcare providers will need to take advantage of the benefits offered by updated technologies, acknowledging that while the ramp-up may take a bit of extra time, the payoff will save time over the long run.
  • Technology companies need to prioritize messaging the time and resource benefits of their applications, and focus on building excellent customer support teams as well as making implementation as fast and easy as possible. 

As healthcare continues to navigate the complex landscape of data aggregation and application, there is a growing need for collaboration among stakeholders, including healthcare providers, policymakers, developers, and patients. 

Despite the challenges, there is an enormous amount of promise. By working together to address challenges around data privacy and standardization, healthcare can catch up with other industries and realize the potential benefits of data-driven decision making, ultimately resulting in a higher overall quality of patient care. 

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