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Using Data to Improve Healthcare Technology

Though the current healthcare spotlight is primarily focused on the advancements in wearable technology that allow users to track personal health metrics, consumer-focused healthcare technology is being matched on the professional and operational end of the spectrum as well. Although not as glamorous, the innovation aimed at physicians and healthcare IT departments will produce more accurate findings for patients and better use of existing data.

A challenge both large enterprises and bootstrapping startups face is changing the outdated systems to which healthcare facilities and doctors have become accustomed. Health data is traditionally separated from other computer systems due to security requirements. However new technologies promoting data collaboration within and between organizations was one of the major topics at HIMSS14 – the large health care industry event that just ended last week in Orlando, Florida – and is key to the future of healthcare IT. “By reducing the silos and bringing information together, you can start doing care coordination, best clinical practices, and personalized medicine. That’s really the promise of where we’re going,” says Marc Perlman, Global Vice President of Healthcare and Life Sciences with Oracle. “And all of that boils down to how you integrate the data.” Doing so not only increases the value of the available data, it can improve health outcomes for patients.

How you store patient data is one thing, how you use and analyze it is another challenge that can use improving. A company still in its early stages, ACOMSplus promises to integrate data into useful, if not lifesaving information. Its technology uses an algorithm to rate a patient’s risk of readmission. Shengyong Wang, an assistant professor of systems working on the ACOMSplus points out that, “on average 25 percent of congestive heart failure patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days; the predictive model that [we] have created data mines 65-plus parameters to determine the probability that patients will come back into the hospital. The program allows health systems to import data from multiple EHRs into one digital interface. Then the software analyzes the data and recommends interventions that use minimal resources.” This predictive software aims to improve patient outcomes while lowering costs in the real world, something all involved with the provision of care can appreciate.

Advancements in health technology extend from how physicians monitor their patients off site to scheduling and more processed oriented tasks in the clinics itself. The ease of use and the costs are two other challenges that doctors face. “According to a recent study by TCS Healthcare Technologies, Case Management Society of America, and the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians, the majority of doctors still like communicating the old-fashioned way. The study found that most providers still use telephone (91 percent), face-to-face conversations (71 percent) or letters (74 percent) to communicate with patients rather than opting for portals, remote monitoring or online personal health records.” With restrictions in Medicaid and other implications of the Affordable Care Act, the costs of new technology become an issue as well. Only time will tell when new technologies will be fully embraced by the healthcare industry. Innovations happen every day, but it’s the practical everyday applications that matter most.

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