Healthcare Companies Drowning in Data Overload or Just Treading Water?

An Oracle report recently found an 85% increase in electronic data storage over the past two years, and although health care professionals may seem to be drowning in a sea of collected information, industry leaders believe the data overload is only temporary.  

The Oracle report, which spanned 11 industries, surveyed 333 C-level U.S. and Canadian enterprises and found 34% of surveyed health care executives said their organization was unable to help patients through data collected by electronic health record (EHR) equipment. Improved patient care was unattainable for 43% of health care organizations surveyed because of insufficient data collection. 

While statistics from the report can sound alarming, David Muntz, principal deputy national coordinator at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) sees a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to establishing meaningful use of EHRs. 

In a phone interview with HHCN, Muntz explained Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) three-stage, multi-year meaningful use program offers incentives to organizations that effectively employ EHRs and the data that comes along with them. 

Many organizations in the industry are currently in Stage One of the program that is expected to continue through at least 2016, according to Muntz. Each stage of the program has an established goal that builds off the collection of health data. The goals include gathering data, using data to analyze populations, and substantially transforming the way care is delivered. 

Rules for Stage Two were released earlier this year with an allotted public comment period.  A final regulation on the rule is expected by the end of this summer, according to Muntz. 

In response to the assertion that health care companies could face a data overload because of EHRs, Muntz simply says, “If you want to look at overload, look at what paper does. It can’t act upon data and you spend more time trying to access the data and less time analyzing it.”

Electronic health records are not new, but this is the first time the market has been ready to take initiative in using the data effectively, says Muntz. 

“We are implementing meaningful use and want to engage people who are considering this in meaningful conversation,” said Muntz.  “Hospitals figure out how to create order sets based on evidence collected, consider the implications, and try to incorporate evidence-based practice into their workload.” 

Incorporating EHRs, according to a Harvard study released in June, decreases the rate of malpractice claims by 84%. The study used data on 275 Massachusetts physicians provided by a malpractice insurer from 1995 to 2007 and data collected from a survey of 189 Massachusetts physicians between 2005 and 2007. 

The results of this study and the steps being taken to ensure safe use of EHRs provides a positive future for EHRs and their effectiveness despite statistics suggesting otherwise, according to Muntz. 

“It’s just like any other technology. If you are not thoughtful about the way you use it, things that you don’t want to happen can happen.”

Read the full Oracle report here.

Written by Erin Hegarty

Erin Hegarty