Obstacles to clinical data use remain, healthcare providers say

June 24, 2010

One obstacle to better use of clinical data within healthcare organizations is that capturing discrete patient data and entering that data in a computable format appear to be daunting, resource-intensive tasks, according to healthcare providers participating in a study, the findings of which are summarized in a white paper titled, Can Organizations Maximize Clinical Data?

One obstacle to better use of clinical data within healthcare organizations is that capturing discrete patient data and entering that data in a computable format appear to be daunting, resource-intensive tasks, according to healthcare providers participating in a study, the findings of which are summarized in a white paper titled, Can Organizations Maximize Clinical Data? Also, the study participants said, some critical data elements for sound clinical analysis are missing because various data were captured in incompatible formats.

HIMSS Analytics conducted a focus group study of chief medical officers and chief medical informatics officers from a variety of provider and payer organizations to learn how members of each group define clinical analytics, how they're currently analyzing clinical data, the tools they use to analyze the data, and the challenges of using clinical data to improve their business.

"Interoperability of data is a hurdle, but it's not insurmountable," said Richard Noffsinger, chief executive officer of Anvita Health, the clinical analytics company that sponsored the study. "The actionable health intelligence derived from leveraging all available clinical data doesn't just improve quality and help control clinical costs, it creates meaningful differentiation in the marketplace as well."

Most of the study participants indicated that they are collecting and leveraging clinical and/or claims data to enhance patient care, cost, safety, and efficiency. The data are examined to evaluate a specific patient or member, a population, a specific provider or provider network, or the prevalence or treatment of a specific condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, according to HIMSS Analytics.

"A key finding for us was that both payers and providers had limited expectations for how clinical analytics could improve the quality of patient care-especially at the point of care-and lower costs through that improved quality," Noffsinger said.

Both providers and payers who participated in the study reported that most clinical data were analyzed retrospectively. In addition, the study found little use of data for real-time decision-making, although participants expressed significant interest in using clinical data to drive clinician decisions in real time at the point of care.

Both groups communicated the view of clinical analytics as a tool to manage risks as reimbursement structures shift toward an outcomes-based focus and away from volume of care.

"The results of this study identified areas of improvement for data capture and data access so that clinical analytics become a more valuable tool for healthcare organizations," according to John P. Hoyt, executive vice president of organizational services at HIMSS.