Leveraging analytics to maximize e-health records

Leveraging analytics to maximize e-health records

The use of electronic patient records, or EPRs, the electronic patient chart within a primary care physician’s office, is increasing and will soon become part of the evolving electronic health record (EHR).

Together, they offer the potential to significantly improve the efficiency and quality of patient care in Canada, while reducing unnecessary costs and administrative overhead.

With a combination of EPRs and EHRs, primary care physicians are making strides toward the adoption of a paperless medical record environment, a scenario that will benefit both the providers of care and their patients.

Unfortunately, a reluctance to change the way they handle medical records is causing some health care providers to overlook the potential benefits of electronic records. It’s a decision that directly impacts the care Canadians are receiving.

Of course, that’s not to say physicians practising without an EPR system are mismanaging patient data, but it does mean they are not getting the most out of the health information being collected.

For example, patients belonging to a physician group may not necessarily have their patient records shared among all physicians, even though the physicians and their associated health care practitioners within the group have responsibility for the same patient.

With an influx of younger and increasingly tech-savvy physicians into the health care profession comes more opportunity for wide-scale adoption of e-health records. However, even if we do reach a complete digital environment, EHR systems alone will not provide all the potential benefits available to Canada’s physicians and, ultimately, patients.

These systems will capture the encounters of each episode of care, enhance the sharing of patient information and offer the opportunity to extend medical research, but that’s only half of the equation.

The other half is having the ability to answer fundamental questions about the quality of patient care, the cost of care and the effectiveness of that care.

Questions might include:

– How are we managing our patient population from a determinant of health perspective?

– How should we stream patients to maximize most appropriate care?

– What are the ideal protocols for a chronic disease management program?

– Which at-risk patients are susceptible to further complications?

– What interventions provide greatest benefit to a patient’s healing process?

To help answer these questions, clinicians and researchers can turn to predictive analytics and business intelligence (BI).

With new sources of electronic data about patients and clinical experiences, health care providers could apply BI and predictive analytics to potentially revolutionize the essential model of health care delivery.

Predictive insights based on vast amounts of clinical, administrative and research data can help to shift the focus from today’s reactionary model towards a proactive and preventative model. For example, leveraging analytical data can enhance the physician’s ability to focus on evidence-based outcomes instead of speculative medicine.

Data analytics also offers a means to observe best practices, which can then be applied to patient care. Collective data and proven outcomes are used to demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment and carried over to help solve care problems.

Through activity-based management techniques, clinics and hospitals can tap into business intelligence to determine the cost of delivery of service and remodel the data to plan for reduced cost.

Ultimately, data analytics and BI should offer the ability to not only look at how we practise medicine, but how we might reshape medicine for all Canadians.

Sophisticated data analysis is already capable of fuelling three exciting trends in medicine:

– evidence-based medicine attempts to more uniformly apply standards of evidence gained from the scientific method;

– protocol-based medicine applies a methodology for uniform clinical practice through research; and

– personalized medicine acknowledges the uniqueness of individuals and aims to provide the right treatment in the right format at the right time.

As EHRs see broader adoption rates, the health care system will become a better integrated ecosystem. When combined with analytics, health care professionals should be able to use that collected data to drive out new insights, leading to improved clinical decision-making, optimized diagnostics and shared best practices.

Ray Won is a health care executive with SAS Canada. He can be reached at ray.won@sas.com

Related content:

Health integration calls for more collaboration

Provincial health care blocks clamour for credibility

Regionalization creates organisms from isolated cells

State of the union: Health care regions across Canada

Regional networks offer wider access to information

Infoway upbeat on EHR progress

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