The Most Important Tech Trend in Health Care

Everyone would agree that health care is changing. The pace of change, however, is accelerating. There are many technologies and trends that are responsible for this change. Most of these are in their infancy and their impact will only be seen in retrospect. Some will die out, others will form the foundation through which change will be affected, and a few will directly change the healthcare landscape. The government has proposed a list of guidelines (“Meaningful Use”) and standards based on which the foundation of storing, retrieving, exchanging and communicating health care data will take place. Implementation of “Meaningful Use” and data standards will result in explosion of data. Physicians will be bombarded with huge amounts of data from all sides – EHR, PHR, mobile devices, email, telemonitoring and from other sources.

Availability of this data by itself will not change healthcare. It has to be converted into information so that it can be acted upon. Information retrieved from this data can be harnessed to be useful at multiple levels:

  1. Physician level: Improved decision making capacity via integrated EHR
  2. Hospital level: Improved business logistics (e.g. effective staffing ratios, infection control policies)
  3. National (and International) level: Generate clinical intelligence to improve health of the population

Clinical intelligence [1] resulting from health data analysis  [2] will potentially change the landscape of healthcare. It will provide tools and techniques to:

  1. Figure out what works and what does not (e.g. which interventions will prevent re-hospitalization)
  2. Figure out what is the most effective way to deliver care for disease entities (e.g. home care, hospital care, nursing home, telemonitoring)
  3. Figure out the safest way to deliver care (e.g. early detection of side effects from new drugs due to better documentation, best methods to prevent falls in the hospital)
  4. Perform real time analysis of health data to determine the best treatment

In fact, in a recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine [3], doctors were able to find evidence to decide if a particular treatment will be beneficial in the patient. They performed a real-time data analysis by searching for similar cases in their EHR and determine the most effective treatment. Similar analyses in the future will change the way clinical trials are performed and evidence is generated.

Once all the necessary systems are in place (EMR, data standards, HIE etc.) converting the data collected into clinical intelligence will change the way medicine is practiced.

References:

  1. Hagland, M. (2011). Got Clinical Intelligence? Applying Business Intelligence Tools to the Core of Operations = Revolution. Retrieved Feb 1, 2012
  2. Kudyba, S. P. (2010). Healthcare Informatics: Improving Efficiency and Productivity (1 ed.). CRC Press.
  3. Frankovich, J., Longhurst, C. A., & Sutherland, S. M. (2011). Evidence-based medicine in the EMR era. N Engl J Med, 365(19), 1758–1759