ACA Brings Value, Challenges for Clinical Data Management

The passing of the March 31 deadline for individuals to enroll for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is proving to be a mixed blessing for many healthcare organizations.

On one hand, clinicians and researchers now will have access to an overabundance of new patient data that could lead to a tipping point for healthcare where all clinical decisions become data-driven — setting the foundation for advances in analytics, population health management, telemedicine and care coordination, all while improving patient outcomes and hopefully lowering costs.

The tsunami of data not only will enable only more patient data to be tracked and utilized in real-time, but also compared to other populations in hopes of improving the future of care.

"These new data streams will form a significant input into the analytics that we will crunch through," says Andy Crowne, general manager of healthcare solutions in EMC's Information Intelligence Group. "There's a need for such data driven processes in order to achieve a consistent set of outcomes that can then be optimized through changes in process. And it is not a great leap to where payers drive business to providers who offer the best combination of outcome and price."

But the enormous amount of data enterprises will manage and the potential for it being used to improve care equally brings enormous responsibility for ensuring that it can be accessed. Healthcare organizations will have to invest in new technology, while also leveraging current IT investments, to manage the vast amount of patient information their systems are becoming overloaded with. And both new and existing from various information repositories and silos will need to be integrated with the EHR so that it can be accessed to transform care delivery and analyzed to support population management efforts.

Couple this with the fact that many providers currently only having access to a fraction of their patient's information within their EHR, and we quickly start to see how such information glut can result in inefficient care, duplicate tests and procedures, or even medical errors — albeit all things that affect the bottom-line and raise healthcare costs.

"It will become vitally important to recognize the need for providing integrated patient-centric records to empower patient-centric care across the continuum," Crowne says. "Healthcare organizations will need to figure out where they are going to store not only new data, but all data; what systems they need to manage it; and how they are going to derive intelligence from it. They may need to invest in an enterprise content management platform in order to address the challenge of accessing and sharing patient information that is trapped in disparate healthcare information systems, or paper-based documents and processes."

One solution many healthcare organizations are turning to is the concept of integrated patient records, which help bring comprehensive information into view for clinicians and empower patient-centric care.  These solutions capture all structured and unstructured content, enabling organizations to create complete fully indexed electronic patient records.

Such access to integrated patient information can help healthcare organizations not only improve patient outcomes by delivering better healthcare, but also create efficiencies that lower costs, Crowne contends.

"We know EHRs still fall short of a complete patient view. And the approach many organizations are presently taking with the management of patient information introduces a whole host of problems, from increased risk, quality and privacy issues, to difficulty conforming to regulatory compliance," he says. "So the challenge we are really faced with is ultimately transforming how we view, organize, access, manage and use patient information to create efficiencies and optimize patient care."