HealthTech
01 May 2019

Understanding the Increase (and Problems) of Data Silos in Digital Health

Written by Margaux Gleber, MPH

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The recent boom in digital innovation has advanced healthcare technology, which is accompanying our needs and extending our lives. In the past, the patient existed only within the clinical setting. Today, technological developments are breaking down barriers that exist within traditional care models. Health data is continuously collected – but analysis of that data and strategy around it – is limited.

Technology’s Role in Value-Based Care

In the shift to a value-based care (VBC), a delivery model that ties reimbursement payments to the quality of care a healthcare organization provides, vast opportunity exists to make money by saving money. The “value” in VBC is derived from measuring health outcomes against the cost of delivering the outcomes. Thus, healthcare stakeholders must ensure that the data used for quality measurement, financial benchmarking, and performance assessments are accurate, timely, and trustworthy.

Providers, including hospitals and physicians, are rewarded for helping patients improve their health, reduce chronic disease effects and incidence, and live evidence-based healthier lives. As simple as that sounds, many physicians face difficulties in participating in VBC programs, citing reasons such as not having the right data to support efforts to provide high-quality care to patients and to measure and report quality results to CMS and other payers.

The challenge? There is little insight into a patient’s care. Relevant data is often located in different locations, from hospitals to specialty care clinics to health apps. These valuable information silos are commonplace in the healthcare landscape, leaving health professionals at a disadvantage to harness the prospective power that exists within big data.

Increasing health data transparency is essential for promoting a patient-centered data ecosystem and building a stronger healthcare ecosystem. Further, an integrated healthcare ecosystem that connects patient-generated data to hospital-generated data is crucial. How do we do this? Engaging patients in their care journeys with digital health.

Digital Health and Data

In the past, healthcare providers were often encouraged to maintain information silos, preventing data analysis that could improve business processes and patient care. In turn, poor data sharing resulted in uncaptured, unanalyzed, and unshared valuable vital information.

Today, implementing digital health is becoming standard in healthcare and adoption continues to increase: 87 percent of consumers say they have adopted at least one digital health tool, compared to 80 percent in 2015, according to results from San Francisco-based Rock Health’s third national consumer survey on digital health adoption and sentiments. The propelling factors for the market boom include the growth in IoT and technological innovations, a rising preference toward mobile technology and the internet, and a growing demand for population health management.

As the market continues to grow, data sources for care and research are increasing. Examples include mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (HIT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine.

To improve the way organizations manage their data, the American Medical Informatics Association suggests a coordinated framework to enforce data openness and availability. Healthcare stakeholders should encourage transparency, openness, and consistency for sharing medical information.

Big data gives hospitals and health systems the ability to shift from reactive care to preventative care. In addition, while VBC is largely metric-driven, healthcare providers should not lose sight of metrics that are not cost-related, such as patient satisfaction and physician productivity. Digital health tools can be deployed to leverage insights, reduce costs, and build better patient experiences.

With the help of remote healthcare apps and technologies, healthcare consumers have greater access to information and are utilizing innovative ways to monitor their own health. Patient engagement strategies and self-awareness tools include the ability to send and receive data to and from providers.

Healthcare professionals are able to deliver health information to patients conveniently and quickly. In return, this information sharing creates trust, reliability and loyalty. And, perhaps most importantly, patients are willing partners in the shift to digital health technology.

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Patients as Partners

Patients can and must become active members of their own health, equipped with proper knowledge and relevant insights about managing their condition. New tools are required to empower patients to become part of their care teams and to move care beyond the four walls of a hospital or doctor’s office.

To optimize health outcomes for value-driven care, the healthcare industry must break down the barriers of existing healthcare silos by creating clinically-integrated platforms that gather and analyze essential information from patients in real-time. It means expanding the definition of care delivery and giving clinicians the tools to manage new models of care. In particular, initiatives should:

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The benefits of driving transparency and empowering patients extend across the care continuum, and health systems and payors can increase revenue through improved resource utilization, VBC initiatives, and patient retention by integrating existing systems with a digital health platform that turns data into insights.

The Verdict on Digital Health

Clinical data holds the potential to help transform the healthcare system, and as preventative care becomes increasingly integral, society needs a streamlined solution more than ever. Health data transparency and improved data collection methods offer consequential opportunities for health systems to ensure quality improvement and reduce costs across the board.

The healthcare industry has a tremendous responsibility, and we have the potential to enhance care quality and create targeted strategies that promote sector-wide data sharing and engagement.

Accurately accessing the longitudinal history of patient populations prompts unique insight and care. When patient information is shared, situational awareness is improved, and appropriate treatment is administered.

Beyond in-person treatment, aggregated health data leads to advancements in medications, treatments and processes that ultimately saves lives. Patients are given simple and motivating mechanisms to participate in their own care, which in turn creates transparency and fosters trust with the healthcare system, thereby reducing disease burden.

While the finish line to breaking data silos and analyzing clinical data is yet to be crossed, the healthcare industry is moving in the right direction. Health systems that invest resources into exchanging health records keep patients healthier and drive down costs.

Physicians that offer patients digital health management platforms are investing in a support system extending well beyond episodic care. Increased interoperability would afford care providers all pertinent health information so they could offer patients the best possible treatment.

This is a guest post by Margaux Gleber, of Veta Health. Veta Health is a clinically-integrated platform that gathers and analyzes essential information from patients in real-time to optimize clinical pathways for better patient health outcomes. Their mission is to put patient well-being at the center of care delivery by providing solutions that drive transparency and patient empowerment throughout care journeys.

 

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Mission

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