Most of us have probably entered a room and felt the tension resonating off of a few people or a couple of groups of people. Many of us have experienced this kind of situation while at work, which makes conducting business difficult at best. For the select few who work in the healthcare industry, added stress like this can translate incongruent goals and antagonistic behavior. The simple solution is to create a better environment for the healthcare providers, but what does this entail? Simply put, physicians to be full engaged.

image courtesy of flickr.com/agecombahia

image courtesy of flickr.com/agecombahia

Studies have been done throughout the healthcare industry to understand where environments could be made better, and there seems to be a recipe that contains all the ingredients to make physicians happy and ensure services are being provided. As explained in a Becker’s Hospital Review article, the five elements to establishing a more engaged physician involvement and establishing an overall good working environment are:

  • Respect for skills and capabilities
  • Respect for opinions and ideas
  • Good relationship with colleagues
  • Good balance between work and life
  • Input on time schedule and structure

Although these same ingredients are quite similar to any professional’s list of desired characteristics within any vocation, they are particularly important to provide a well-balanced individual who provides a great, personal service within his or her community.

Physicians work very hard to grow in the skills and abilities they have. It is a great disservice when any physician feels as though this hard work is not respected or listened to, especially when a healthcare organization goes through internal improvements. There is meaningful awareness that physicians have being on the frontlines, and to have this discounted or set aside leads to a more disengaged physician.

Along with the hard work, physicians know the underpinnings of their organization, and have most likely formed opinions and ideas in how the system could be improved. To open up doors of communication that allows these concepts to come forward is necessary to showing and placing value on these experts. By creating a forum in which they might be heard, physicians feel empowered, and enables a sense of community to build. It does go without saying that no one wants to attend meetings just to attend, but there should be purpose, structure and engagement to the betterment of the organization, however that might come.

Just like any one of us, the feeling of belonging and comradery helps to foster commitment. The need to have a good relationship with colleagues not only promotes healthy connections on a professional level, but also encourages a more effective and efficient engagement with patients. This step doesn’t always occur within the walls of a hospital or clinic, a lot of physicians attend conferences that address the many different components that go into being a physician, or create other outside opportunities to gather with peers.

With most everything in life, it is necessary to find a balance between too much and too little. The same goes for physicians, especially in the fact that many physicians do not have a nine-to-five job and must find their own symmetry. As in many aspects in life, there are individuals who are naturally talented when creating balance between work and everything else in life, but there are a great number of physicians who rely upon support and example from their peers in order to form this balance. Due to the sheer amount of hours that are part of the regimen of a physician, harmony to life’s duties needs attention, and should not be overlooked, because none of us is all work or all play.

image courtesy of flickr.com/phalinn

image courtesy of flickr.com/phalinn

Personally, when I think about disciplined schedule, I remember my senior years in high school and college where I wasn’t always focused on the task at hand because I was burned out on being told where to go, when to be there and for how long. Again, this isn’t much different than physicians experience over time. Too much structure, especially without input from those held to that construct makes it challenging to keep up the enthusiasm day in and day out. Administrators tend to see blocks of time on a page as quantity and profits, while physicians see themselves stuck on an assembly line without quality. When administrators and physicians can come together to form a more cooperative time structure, all voices can fine-tune the machine to make sure quantity is met, yet quality is never lost.

Physician engagement within a healthcare organization is a relationship that requires care, understanding, and constant nourishment. The rewards are then felt inside and out of the organization, thus creating an all-around better environment for physicians to work and patients to be treated.

Anyone that has ever tried to create and stay within a budget knows that it isn’t always easy. Imagine the scale of the budget for a healthcare organization with a lot of providers, medical specialties and a variety of locations that must be managed. Yet, we live in a society that requires quality for the dollars we spend, sometimes even the highest quality products or services at rock-bottom prices. In the case of the healthcare industry, this demand isn’t just coming from patients but also from the federal government as part of the Affordable Care Act. How is it possible to make significant enough changes to enable both parts of this equation to be true? Managing risks is what it comes down to.

image courtesy of flickr.com/ShawnCampbell

image courtesy of flickr.com/ShawnCampbell

Obviously, it is easy for a layman to insist that changes be implemented in order to exact better care and lower costs. However, someone who works in the business, especially those that are in decision-making positions, might not know where to begin making changes. Cutting cost aren’t always as simple as finding a lower-cost item to replace a more expensive; that might affect the quality of care. The necessity to find where waste could be happening, inefficiencies are prevalent, and clinical care costs are on the rise, are pointers showing where changes can begin to be applied. Uncovering these nuances isn’t usually apparent, especially without analytical data to bring it out of obscurity.

Healthcare organizations have turned to enterprise data warehouses (EDW) to help in identifying and truly harnessing the data they are already gathering. Data is being generated in a number of different areas and departments, such as administrative, clinical, financial and patient satisfaction. When all information is collected together, it can then be compared to find variations, which is one of the indicators to waste or inefficiencies. Uncovering this sort of in-depth kind of discovery may not be possible without an unbiased and fully comprehensive ability that comes with an EDW.

Another important tool that healthcare providers have at their arsenal is Population Health Management (PHM). PHM is explained as working with preventative care measures to help large sections of a given population or community from becoming ill or more severely ill, all while reducing overall costs. This requires a concerted effort by healthcare professionals to understand the needs of those they are serving and to work to slow or halt diseases and ailments effecting them. Again, identifying patterns within their given area, physician must rely upon data uncovering software, which points out key areas of focus.

An example of an organization that has implemented many strategies to specifically work to improve care and lower costs is Crystal Run Healthcare of New York. Crystal Run has worked to significantly reduce errors and waste, become more efficient and effective in treatment, and avoid delays in decision-making performance so as to be as timely and successful as possible. Their willingness to risk a new approach to managing healthcare has proven very worthwhile for the organization as a whole and for the patients and population they are working to help.

image courtesy of flickr.com/jess

image courtesy of flickr.com/jess

Providing high-quality healthcare is very much a modern standard that we’ve come to expect. The added benefit, and requirement, of receiving such care at very carefully sculptured cost is helping us all. Though this doesn’t come without the added insight of intellectual software, everyone is better served, no matter what side of the stethoscope you are on.

Population Health Management is often not unclearly defined. A basic grasp of Population Health Management has to do with the knowing a certain population, like a community or city, and actively strategizing to provide the best care at the lowest possible cost. This happens by knowing what infections and diseases are prevalent to the area, what treatments are needed and even to promote proactive methods to prevent outbreaks, epidemics or increased spreading of contagions.

image courtesy of flickr.com/KazAndrew

image courtesy of flickr.com/KazAndrew

PHM has many components to it and require a lot of aggregated data to understand where action should be taken. Some of these individual components including electronic health records (EHR), financial and operational data of the given organization so as to have both a broad spectrum and individualistic picture of what is going on. The Internet, and other data-rich databases hold much more time-sensitive information, and has the ability to follow a train of thought down the rabbit hole. Without the help of PHM software, the ability to provide proficient medical assistance would be impeded severely. It could be compared to looking up select information in an encyclopedia as compared to the Internet: searching through books can prove to be time consuming, out-of-date, and fruitless due to limitations within the information.

There are two sides to PHM and both are benefited greatly from what it produces. Healthcare professionals are able to assess, treat and understand the going’s on, and to do this without increasing overall costs. As patients, we are receiving better, more exacting care, with the possibility of more positive results.

Population Health Management is designed to help healthcare providers by improving clinical practices which consists of evidence gathering, evaluating knowledge, setting value stream maps, and patient safety protocols. PHM also improves the organizational deployment system, which is the team structures, roles, and fingerprinting implementation. It also is designed to improve data warehouse analytics, which is the process of data driven prioritization, calculations, definitions, and data visualization. It is not a series of one-time projects, but requires systemic and sustained efforts across a system to win and maintain hard-fought gains.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/thampapons1

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/thampapons1

When considering what PHM can provide for an organization, it shouldn’t be implemented because a few people believe that it is beneficial, however not realizing all the advantages that are helpful to everyone involved can be detrimental. It is best to seek out and understand much more deeply the costs, the changes that might be required, and the ability to find a return on investment. This basic explanation is just a launching point into a multifaceted and quite fascinating subject. Please feel free to navigate through Health Catalyst’s website to read more about the implementing and far-reaching aspects of Population Health Management.

One of the greatest demands that has been placed at the feet of healthcare professionals is to do their job better and to do it with less money out of pocket. This is a daunting task for any expert in their own field, but had seemed almost insurmountable for doctors and other in the medical business. A tool was employed to do what had been done in other sectors of industry, with great success, yet hadn’t been applied to health and medicine. That tool was big data.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/cooldesign

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/cooldesign

Within in the healthcare industry there are not only expectations for better care at a lowered cost, but also governmental guidelines and laws. This is a lot to shoulder for any industry, especially one that handles everything from colds and flu to cancer and end-of-life decisions. For these and many other reasons, healthcare seeks out and utilizes the many parts that make up big data. Part of what big data had been successful at doing elsewhere includes reducing inefficiencies, redundancies, fraud and errors. All of this is very applicable to the daily duties with any healthcare organization, and thus is seen as the precise tool to aid in the betterment of patient care and many other behind-the-scenes aspects.

Huge amounts of data are being collected everyday within the confines of just healthcare alone. This data is being stored digitally for easy access, but the true potential for this data is found when analytics are applied, which uncovers the usable data patterns and significant information pockets. Just as data points plotted on a chart indicate trends, big data analyses or reports unlock undiscovered patterns and relations that were not apparent before this process.

With the accumulation of data, which produces a more transparent picture of events, accuracy is improved. As much as each of us like to think that we are unique, our bodies are quite similar and react similarly in comparable circumstances. This means that patients that present with symptoms that are akin to one another are probably suffering from the same ailment. Even in rare sicknesses, if physicians had the insight provided from big data to know what a patient was dealing with, diagnosis and treatment can be ascertained and started more quickly, leading to the possibility of better results.

Additionally, big data provides for real-time decision making, which improves overall care whether that is handled through a clinical or hospital environment. Real-time assessments includes the ability for the treating physician to access your electronic health record (EHR). This contains your health history with any allergies, current prescriptions, prior surgeries and any other details that would aid in avoiding negative outcomes.

As previously stated, margins for errors are decreasing, yet big data furnishes the ability to make data-driven strategies and decisions. To be able to offer care in a more predictive manner rather than reactive guarantees more positive results at a lower cost due to preventing added treatment times and resources. This translates to other departments within a healthcare system when they are able to prevent waste, errors and other vital resources from being dedicated where they could otherwise be handled more efficiently rather than on a crisis basis.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

With a well-managed data system, big data will insure patient privacy, while still supplying healthcare efforts with crucial data and patterns. Many individuals worry greatly that their information is available to the highest marketing bidder or is one hack away from being out on the internet. Security measures should never be compromised, and strict adherence to internal protocols for data protection must be met. However, having big data analytics and management does not open a system up to being more vulnerable.

Big data is truly one of the most effective tools to be implemented within the healthcare industry. With several notable advantages for an organization and their patients, along with very few if any drawbacks, big data provides intricate details and broad painted pictures to help give all involved a better path to follow. Just because healthcare is a little late in adopting the game doesn’t mean that they aren’t reaping the benefit and improving care at the same time.

To begin any project of significant size, whether it is new or renewal, you must have plans and tools with which to work. This is also the case when making quality improvements within a healthcare organization. The bigger question is where to start; are improvements even needed? Which departments are struggling and where? Is the system to blame or processes?

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

To understand the big picture of quality improvement tools specifically within healthcare, it is necessary to breakdown some of the individual tools and their functions. Fact gathering and storage is the essential foundation to discovery, planning and progression. In the context of tools to improve care, there are two tools that work together but are very separate items. One is the system or software used to gather all necessary information and the second is the data storage in the form of a data warehouse. The software plays a number of roles, and depending upon the different performance abilities within the system, the input and output functionality will vary, but should include data analytic assessments. What this means is medical record information from all departments is gathered and saved in a way that the system can later go back and pull out data points to produce visible results. These visible results are formatted into charts or graphs that paint a picture of what is happening within the organization.

Storage of data, especially in such vast amounts as is contained within the healthcare industry, should not be a passive or secondary thought, but a cognizant choice with clear understanding that demands for securing, accessing and accumulating of data is ongoing and growing. The design of a data warehouse lends itself to storing massive amounts of information, protecting the records within yet permitting authorized personnel to access them, and not isolating data so as not to be easily reached.

Once information is stored, protected and accessible, the software should them be able to utilize it and produce a visual representation, which clearly defines what is happening inside the given parameters. This is known as data mining and it helps to detect problematic areas in the establishment. When areas of concern are specified, plans for changes can then be made.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/adamr

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/adamr

This is when a completely new set of tools can be implemented, but they require human insight and action. Analysis, brainstorming, benchmarks and follow-ups are tools that factor into quality improvements. Each has its own time and order, but many will be repeated as a way fine-tuning problematic issues and areas. This pattern of revisiting steps, including having updated statistics to work from, will keep you on the cutting edge of development and improvement, because nothing stays on the same path and implemented changes may not be beneficial.

Quality improvement tools are an arsenal that is available to you to not only see the big picture, but also all the small pictures that make up the big one. Being efficient and effective in the evolution of progress within a healthcare organization takes ownership of the right tools and the knowledge of how to utilize them. This will provide the unbiased data showing troubled areas and thus help predict when efforts should be placed.

Whether we like it or not, we all fall into different categories and classifications for many aspects in our lives.  Some groupings are more obvious: our ethnic heritage, the neighborhood we live in, the position we hold at work, etc.  Other divisions that aren’t as evident include religion, the activities we participate in, and favorite type of movie or book, among many others.  In the world of healthcare, we are classified according to “risk stratification” – our overall well-being.

Understanding risk stratification

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Many of us in the populace probably fit into an overall  healthy category, with no serious or on-going medical issues that require medical assistance of any sort.  This low-risk tier is not where healthcare professionals put much of their attention or worry; very little medical expenditures are dedicated here, and most patients are treated for minor ailments or simple routine check-ups.

The next grouping would be individuals who have some level of chronic disease or medical condition that requires some sort of continuing care.  People in this category are managing their illness, but with more severe cases, they may not be in full control of all symptoms. They mostly have no further progression or additional complications to ongoing circumstances.

Unfortunately, there are many people who fall into a dangerous grouping of patients that suffer with a progression of their diseases or illnesses that is ever-changing, worsening, or have the development of new symptoms or conditions that make treatment difficult, unending and costly.  With several individuals who are considered catastrophic, which classifies them with life-threatening and possibly life-ending diagnoses.

levels of risk stratification

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When a practitioner understands where a patient lies within these parameters, a plan of action can be taken so as to prevent progression, or further complications that would endanger the patient’s health.  The risk categorization allows a medical professional to reduce waste of time and resources by allocating support where necessary and eliminating waste where avoidable.  This is made possible with predictive analytics.

To be able to predict not only how a patient should receive medical treatment is essential.  No one wants to be subjected to additional, unnecessary testing or procedures. Providing assistance in the form of home healthcare visits, medicine reconciliations or follow-up appointments to secure the best possible outcomes is essential.  This personalized care plan leads directly to an improvement in quality of life, the prevention the advancement of chronic diseases, the development of additional ailments, re-categorization to a higher-risk category, and a reduction in total medical expenses.

Health Care Costs

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Many of us don’t mind being listed in different societal divisions, in fact, we often proudly identify ourselves as such.  Other times, these divisions make us feel like outcasts or judged for something other than who we really are.  However, when it comes to being set in a category of health, we should trust the diagnosis of the medical professional who literally knows us inside and out.  By understanding the classification of well-being that we are currently in, we are able to take the directions given to improve our overall health, make goals to lessen our risk stratification, and reduce time and energy put into taking care of medical issues, to leave time to do the things we really want to do.

Do you have one of those desks that has files piled high, sticky notes stuck to almost every horizontal and vertical surface, and you are the only one that understands the “system” to the madness?  What if this were the case for your doctor or other health professional: would you feel confident in his or her ability to treat you?  Probably not.  Yet, many analysts within the healthcare industry are bogged down with hunting and pecking out the needed information to perform their actual job.  The requisite for clinical data management in order to have optimal efficiency and effectiveness to make decisions is obvious.

Data management in any general sense may start out small and manageable with no need for databases or external software.  Spreadsheets are used to create reports, analyze costs, and keep track of business dealings.  These first initial spreadsheets weren’t sufficient after some time and additional reports and information were required, so another spreadsheet or ten were implemented for further insight.  Then, the database or data warehouse option is no longer optional, and the data being entered and tracked is now distributed differently, and access to records is hidden or more difficult to uncover without the aid of the newly-hired IT manager.  Subsequently, all the reports that had once been generated and produced helpful vision of the business are now out-of-date due to the difficulty in turning out useful reports.

Clinical Data Management

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It is not the mission in a business to mismanage the data, however the fact that the snowball effect can cascade without intervention and appropriate stop-gap measures is very real.  Within the business of providing healthcare, the mismanagement of data can happen quickly by virtue of that medical data is one of the highest producers of stored information over most industries.  Additionally, the reality that privacy must be protected and accessibility by permissible individuals comes with the territory.  Overall, clinical data management is not an easy concept to tackle.

To begin data collection, entry and validation have to be standardized at each workstation connected to the data.  Although this sounds pretty much like common sense, it isn’t as easy to implement as you might think.  Data collection is usually in the form of the packet of paperwork a patient fills out.  This paperwork should contain all the necessary information required for contacting the patient, insurance details, and whatever else is needed internally and externally to that office.

This packet is then turned into someone who will do both data entry and data validation.  Data entry is the transfer from paper to electronic form, but this the time to verify that the patient filled in all parts of the paperwork, and if there were any mistakes, these discrepancies are corrected.  This can sometimes occur with illegible writing or if the patient doesn’t understand the request being made.

Data validation can start at this point, but can happen with edit check programs or through different departments, such as billing.  Each one of these previous steps is vital to producing the most accurate output.  Yet, the work at this stage is part of the last measure to meet established protocol and ensure meticulousness.

Health care analytics and data management

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Storage of the electronic records should be set up in a manner that is both efficient to store and easily accessed for any and all means necessary.  This performance is not something that is arbitrary, but has been predetermined and verified by the software creators.  Because there are so many types and models of software available, and any number of ways in which the data can be stored and then retrieved, it is sufficient to say that tried and tested medical software is the best bet.

If discrepancies are found later on, standard procedures should be established and performed to resolve all known errors.  If the error cannot be answered with simple investigative tools, the record should be flagged so that further time and energy can be dedicated to achieve the highest degree of accuracy.

This is a simplified look at clinical data management, and there are many other departments and individuals involved throughout the life cycle of a medical file, but with this basic understanding and foreknowledge of some of what takes place within a doctor’s office or hospital, a picture can be formed of just how extensive and expansive one industry has to go to handle so much data.

heart failure readmission can be painful

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Nobody wants to go through a traumatic medical event of any sort.  To experience a heart attack is difficult enough, but to be on the road to recovery and then to be readmitted into the hospital for heart failure related complications is something that no one wants to go through.   However, it is an all-too-common course that people end up on.  In fact, it has made such waves that the government now tracks the readmission rates for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia whether it is to the original admitting hospital or a subsequent one.

Patients and the government are not the only ones who do not like this trend; hospitals are economically burdened not only with care of the patient but also redirection of healthcare staff at possible critical times.  In order to prevent readmissions for cardiovascular occurrences, a new mindset needed to be understood and implemented.

It is believed that one out of every five Medicare patient is readmitted within the first 30 days after initial discharge following a heart attack or similar event.  On a grand scale, that means that billions of dollars are being spent to take care of these patients once again.  The solution might be as easy as understanding the patient as a whole.  The patient might be dealing with much more that cardiovascular problems, but also might be at risk due to outside emotional, mental, psychological, financial or even educational issues.  If a patient is not able to understand the discharge information presented to them because they are unable to read or the language is above their reading or language comprehension, then it is very possible that critical directions will not be followed.  Or if the patient believes that subsequent appointments with doctors are going to cause a financial burden, appointments will either be ignored or never scheduled.

A new mentality needs to be identified and utilized in order to ascertain which patients may fall into one or more of these risk areas, and thus ultimately end up back in the emergency room and hospital.  In more basic terms, sending someone home after a hospital stay with instructions to follow, medications to pick up and other detailed objectives and then not checking up to make sure all is being completed is not sufficient.  No one needs to fall through the cracks, but effort should be made on the part of health professionals to intervene more into the lives of patients who have suffered a heart attack or other cardiovascular episode.

It is not possible to hold the hand of everyone that is being discharged from a hospital, nor is it necessary.  However, there are target focuses that will help to ensure that at-risk patients are getting the care they need, and confident patients are not being burdened with too much involvement.  These are the three areas of both concern and overall best assessment:

  • Medication optimization
  • Early follow-up care coordination
  • Enhanced patient education

All medication being taken and prescribed should be appraised for reactionary concerns, and the patient needs to fully understand when and how all medicines should be taken.  This may sound like common sense to most people, but at times of stress and duress, going over all aspects of medications helps a patient to grasp the complexities, side effects, and reactions that may occur. ACO’s try to manage all risks, especially when they involve heart failure.

Early follow-up care coordination is an essential tool to making sure the patient is not left to taking care of themselves and possibly missing out of crucial care from health professionals.  It doesn’t matter if the patient forgets to schedule appointments or chooses not to make them; follow-up coordination helps to make certain the patient receives the care that will alleviate the chance that he/she would be readmitted back into the hospital.

The enhanced patient education goes directly to making sure the patient is aware of all aspects of their condition.  This focus area can be minimal if a patient is well informed already, or could be extensive if a patient has little or no understanding depending upon a great number of outside issues, which could range from literacy to language or a variety of other matters.

population health and data management

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No patient wants or should be unnecessarily subjected to recurring hospital stays, especially if there are methods available to mediate this problem.  Implementing focuses like the ones listed above may require more time upfront, but that would mean that time and resources will be saved down the road.

When looking at a job title, some positions are pretty self-explanatory. Managers manage. Assistants assist. Cooks cook. But what do data analysts really analyze? It is impossible for one person or even a large group of people to analyze all the data that is available within their company and industry. That’s why we employ computers and have programs that help filter out the parts of the information that aren’t needed or relevant at a specific moment. To give you an idea of what a data analyst faces in the whole realm of information out there, it is estimated that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. That is 2.5 followed by 17 zeros. No one person; no one industry deals with all that data at once. However, the healthcare industry is a large contributor to those massive amounts of bytes that are created.

Someone that is interested in the field of healthcare data analytics has to be familiar with the information technology (IT) side of things, but also must be well-versed in clinical and healthcare terminology and settings. As listed on Salary.com, some of the requirements and responsibilities of a typical business data analyst include, “Interprets results using a variety of techniques, ranging from simple data aggregation via statistical analysis to complex data mining independently. Designs, develops, implements and maintains business solutions. Provides tutorship to junior analysts. Familiar with a variety of the field’s concepts, practices, and procedures. Relies on extensive experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected.” With the addition of fundamental knowledge or experience within healthcare policies and procedures, you can begin to understand the complexities that the healthcare industry has to deal with.

Maybe none of this information really interests you, and you are definitely not changing careers to become a healthcare data analyst. What is important and very beneficial is what those in this chosen career do for you and me. There are very few people that when they visit a doctor’s office or hospital want to find their medical record file or create a new one. Then, you absolutely don’t want to take the time to organize your information within a database or data warehouse so that it will be accessible for short- and long-term needs. These analysts help in the “importing, cleaning, transforming, validating or modeling healthcare data with the purpose of understanding or making inferences for decision or management purposes.”

In some respect, the analysts are like the wizard behind the curtain; they have implicit knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes and how it runs. However, pulling the curtain back doesn’t necessarily give you the insight into what is happening. In fact, most of us would rather trust that those experienced people know what they are doing and let them work their magic.

Their magic makes it possible for us as patients to have our medical records readily available when we show up for any medical treatments. They also make it possible for the variety of reports that need to be produced to be done so in a concise manner. Just like you don’t want to read pages and pages of excess materials when all you want to know is the best place to find deep-dish pizza, the same goes when creating a financial overview for a clinic. Height and weight of all patients only would be distracting and useless when deciding budgets. Being able to parse out particular data points helps an office or hospital to run more efficiently.

We have seen leaps and bounds in the technology that has been adapted and adopted by the healthcare industry. There is an expectation that most ailments and illnesses should be able to be treated and cured. Though this isn’t completely true yet, the ability that doctors have to find and treat us is quite amazing. The recorded details of not only our own individual processes, but everyone else that visits is stored for future reference. Even the government wants to know many of the specifics that are happening within communities and across the country; that is how we find out how many people have severe cases of the flu. These numbers aren’t just pulled out of thin air or notched on a wall, but are recorded and then accessed to provide accounts of current well-being of a population.

Healthcare data analysis may not seem like a significant or difficult job on the surface, but their knowledge, experience and expertise make them a vital instrument within the healthcare industry and population health management. They make it possible to enjoy a more smoothly moving appointment and data that is helpful for a population as a whole.

stack-of-papersAs with many aspects in life and technology, improvement is a necessity. In the realm of healthcare, advancements are a lifeline to bridging the old known way of doing things and the new betterment of organization that benefits all involved; truly to have meaningful use measures formed. This sort of change doesn’t come by making a couple of decisions; defined stages with deadlines must be established and then met by all Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). To better understand what it takes to be compliant with the predefined standards, we will step through stages and define them as they are currently identified.

Stage 1 has already occurred back between 2011 and 2012 where a baseline was instituted for the capture and sharing of electronic data. The government has defined the fundamental characteristics to meet meaningful use standards as:

1. Improving quality, safety, efficiency, and reducing health disparities
2. Engage patients and families in their health
3. Improve care coordination
4. Improve population and public health
5. Ensure adequate privacy and security protection for personal health information
( www.cdc.gov)

In the health industry, this simply comes down to promote an accountable healthcare system within our communities. By utilizing the electronic health record (EHR) technology, health professionals can improve population health outcomes and still empower the patient in their care.

Stage 2 began in 2014 with the implementation of advancements to clinical processes. There are a number of core objectives that need to be met by eligible professionals to qualify as a meaningful use participant. Many of these objectives are to ensure rigorous health information exchanges, transmission of patient’s information is available to across multiple settings and that patients have more control over their electronic files and data (www.healthit.gov).

Stage 3 is still being defined/refined but should be available for implementation starting in 2017. This stage takes on the clinical decisions, patient self management and accessibility to all relevant dates. Overall, the concept being established include following the previous two stages more regularly with patients, and then employ further improvement in these areas:

1. Improving quality, safety, and efficiency, leading to improved health outcomes
2. Decision support for national high-priority conditions
3. Patient access to self-management tools
4. Access to comprehensive patient data through patient-centered HIE (health information exchange)
5. Improving population health
(www.healthit.gov)

One of the most anticipated features that is being talked about within this stage is the recommendation that a drug to drug interaction list be maintained. This would make it possible for any prescriptions being made would be first compared with existing patient prescriptions to note if there are any drug interactions, especially those that are fatal.

Currently there are many pharmacies and healthcare professionals that are able to check interactions between drugs, but the current proposal is suggesting that an external source would be directed in maintaining all available medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, for their relative reactions to one another. This would then need to be readily accessible to all those involved with medical treatment.

Another anticipated feature in Stage 3 is that the patient will be more involved in their own care. That may seem like it is self-evident, but if you have ever tried to look at your medical records or get copies for personal use, you will understand that your information is highly guarded and may appear to be inaccessible. This does not mean that you will be diagnosing yourself and recommending a process of events, but it will allow you to be more aware of what is going on, what is available, and have the control to choose more freely that path that you might want to follow in your care.

I do want it understood that Stage 3 has not fully been established and most of it is not readily available for healthcare professionals to begin to implement. Even several objectives in Stage 2 are still considered floating targets and cannot be reached in the health industry. However, many in the industry are working hard with officials from different arms of the government to nail down the achievable goals and finally realize Stage 2 as a whole.

To have real-time data regarding a patient and a population can influence for the better decisions that are being made about our health treatment. When doctors and other professional staff members are able to see multi-dimensional reports, monitor clinical operations and truly find meaningful use within the data that is collected, there are unlimited benefits that can be seen and felt across many disciplines.

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