Ever since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Act (PPACA) in 2012, all healthcare providers in the US have been mandated to store patient data in the form of electronic medical records (EMRs).
EMRs do away with clunky, paper-based records of patient medical histories. They help physicians access clinical data more efficiently and reduce the number of duplicate visits. And because large amounts of patient data are stored in healthcare providers’ databases, they also give medical administrators the option to analyze and make use of this information.
Let’s take a closer look at this last, often overlooked point. What are all the ways administrators can leverage EMR data?
1. Predict upcoming healthcare issues
Doctors often rely on their patients to schedule appointments with them once they’re in pain or suffering from another affliction. But EMR data can help healthcare providers determine when timely medical advice needs to be given.
For example, if a patient had multiple blood pressure readings that are constantly increasing over time then they definitely need a checkup more often than the average person. Similarly, have your diabetic patients been regularly attending their foot and eye health screenings? Has a tobacco user with extremely bad lung capacity been adhering to their smoking cessation routine?
Since EMRs collect and store healthcare data across all medical providers, it’s now possible to track patient outcomes proactively and flag those that may need further attention. If the system raises any concerns, administrators can reach out to the patient in question and schedule an appointment without waiting for them to.
2. Analyze community health factors
It’s a well-known fact in the medical profession that the quality of your neighborhood as well as other community traits such as average income, education levels, unemployment rates, and food choices are all important predictors of patient outcomes. While not all EMRs currently allow providers to collect information on these determinants, there’s a growing movement to make it a federal mandate. Some initiatives, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Equity Plan, have already started collecting socioeconomic data to better predict population health. This entails the development of interactive dashboards that highlight things like violence, drug use, and economic disparities.
However, if EMRs adopt community-level data en-masse, it will definitely have massive implications for public health professionals. With mass volumes of certified environmental, social, and community data, providers will be able to examine the full picture of their patients. They’ll be able to look at preventive causes of diseases as opposed to simply treating them after they’ve taken root.
3. Leverage claims data
Another valuable data point in healthcare analytics is information pertaining to claims. This includes a structured format which tracks patient demographics, diagnosis, dates of medical appointments, cost of services, and specific treatments requested. Claims data can help solve some of the interoperability issues that currently affect EHR systems. It’s possible that legacy patient data wasn’t exported properly, as any EMR/EHR consultant will testify to. That’s why claims data is so valuable – as it has the potential to step up and fill the void.
Patients usually stick around with one insurance provider for the entire scope of their utilization. Hence, the data is spread over the lifecycle of the care continuum.
Big data has certainly piqued the interest of industries from financial services to transportation, but healthcare has been a relative outlier. However, the answer to better healthcare planning and management might be lying in plain sight: massive volumes of patient-specific data generated by EMRs. Plus, since these systems are here to stay, the amount of data and its accuracy is only bound to improve. Leveraging patient data has implications not just for the patient itself but, ultimately, for the entire scope of healthcare process and service delivery.