Despite the fact that many healthcare organizations have moved to digital healthcare records, health IT systems are still fragmented and unable to support the current and future needs of value-based care, a new paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association points out.
The paper finds:
Provider organizations pursuing new models of health care delivery and payment are finding that their electronic systems lack the capabilities needed to succeed. The result is a chasm between the current health IT ecosystem and the health IT ecosystem that is needed. Both the technologies themselves and the application of those technologies and the data they contain urgently need improvement to support the transition to value-based care. The existing obstacles are largely not knowledge barriers, but execution barriers.
Currently, more than 96 percent of hospitals and more than 50 percent of physicians are equipped with tools, such as patient portals, that enable patient access to health information, contribute to their care, and engage in research, the paper points out. This is largely thanks to federal requirements, which will continue to push the generation of more patient health data over the next few years.
But as data grows, so do silos in patient data management, which can create barriers to interoperability and make it even more difficult to include patients in their own care.
“Today, clinical care, research, and innovation typically occur in silos without integrated data or processes, resulting in substantial gaps between [an ideal integrated health IT environment] and our current health IT ecosystem,” the paper points out.
Waving Goodbye to Healthcare Silos
By moving to a system that will enable a more holistic approach to data management, Ananth Balasubramanian, general manager of healthcare at enterprise data management company Commvault, notes that healthcare organizations can not only cut back on fragmentation, but also increase security and cut back on costs.
“There are multiple reasons why data needs to be managed on a holistic basis — first and foremost from a security standpoint. If you don’t know where your data is and you get attacked by ransomware or something else malicious, essentially you could end up losing data and not even know what you lost. If the unknown data is relevant to patient care then it could impact patient care significantly,” Balasubramanian told HealthTech.
He also points out that, from a cost perspective, it can become more costly to manage several systems, particularly in the event that the organization will need to sift out particular information.
“From a legal and regulatory perspective, let’s say there is a lawsuit against the hospital and you have to search through the data to provide the right information back from your legal teams to contest the lawsuit — if you have to search through 300 data silos, that is going to take a lot of time and resources. You may not even be able to comprehensively search through all the data,” Balasubramanian says. But with a single system, an organization can essentially go in through a single database and pull all the information on a set of patients.
Furthermore, several data management systems mean redundant resources in managing those systems.
“When you consolidate all of this together and collapse it into one platform, the personal overhead, storage overhead, and management and maintenance overheads all go down significantly. Which frees up not just resources but also dollars to be able to do more innovative things in patient care throughout the hospital systems,” he notes.
How to Migrate Systems to a Single Platform
So how can a hospital go about consolidating a fragmented data management infrastructure?
The most important place to start is to generate buy-in from everyone in the organization. “Once you have the buy-in, the question becomes how do we do this, and where do we start,” he adds.
But it won’t happen overnight.
“This isn’t something that can happen in a month, and a quick consolidation could disrupt a lot of things within the hospital entity,” Balasubramanian says.
In fact, it will take several years to close out contracts with several vendors and fully consolidate the systems, so Balasubramanian recommends laying out a three- to five-year roadmap as to how to consolidate all silos into one platform.
“They should start with laying out the most pressing needs for data consolidation within the hospital today and keep building it into one management system,” he says. “The beauty of an approach like that is that you begin by doing this in bite-sized chunks, and that you don’t overstress the organization both monetarily and personnel-wise. Also, this is not something that would conflict with any of your existing contracts or records agreements that you have in place because when those agreements come up for renewal, you can slowly shift them to one provider instead.”