Better Health Cost-Cutting Through Data

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Data is both an opportunity for a health industry aiming to improve efficiency, but also a headache for a sector that is working to process a massive influx of patient information shared from the increasing range of databases.

People from a range of medical fields spoke on Monday about how to best handle data options during the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow conference. Predictive data analytics, for instance, has the potential to keep people out of the hospital, thus reducing the costs of health care and easing the capacity for treatment in health centers, said Dick Daniels, the chief information officer for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Inc.

Analytics software can improve research and predict likely outcomes for treatment, Daniels said, but added that “we are not allowing the machines to make decisions.”

Daniels worked with JPMorgan Chase before joining Kaiser, and he is “shocked by how disconnected this the health industry is.”

Calling for more interoperability between medical technologies, Daniels recalled how the financial sector created efficient online banking and made it possible for ATMs to coordinate with numerous banks.

“Since this has been solved in other industries I’m hopeful we are going to have that seamless interoperability,” he said.

Patient monitoring through use of wearable devices such as a FitBit wristband are an example of useful health data, but physicians have to figure out “how to sort the data” and ensure it is reliable, he added.

Clinicians and IT staff need to coordinate better to ensure that the right kind of data is being used and that processing the information does not become a confusing, unnecessary chore, said Angelo Giardino, senior vice president for Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Patients are also becoming more informed about their own health problems by doing research online, which can empower people to be involved in their treatment process but can also cause confusion if the information is not accurate, Giardino said.

It is important to make sure that data gets to the people and doctors that need it, but also to make sure that it can be shared while meeting privacy standards used by different organizations, said Marcus Speaker, associate chief medical information officer of the Virginia-based Carilion Clinic.

“The next step will be discreet data moving back and forth between health systems,” Speaker said. “But there is a long way to go.”

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