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Executive Interest in Informatics Seen Growing—But Not the Human and Financial Resources Needed

November 18, 2012
by Mark Hagland
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Deloitte’s first-ever look at senior executive interest in informatics uncovers both plus and minuses going forward

During the AMIA 2012 Conference, held in Chicago in late October, and sponsored by the American Medical Informatics Association, Ross Martin, M.D., MHA, a specialist leader in the Washington, D.C.-based federal strategy practice division at Deloitte, released a report title “The 2012 Deloitte-AMIA Health Informatics Industry Maturity Survey.” As Martin explained to HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland, this first-ever survey of its kind sponsored by Deloitte was purposely kept small in scale (97 respondents, based on an online survey out in the field between February and May of this year), and was intended as a first look at senior executive-level support for informatics development across the hospital, medical group, health system, health insurer, and life sciences sectors in healthcare.

Still, despite its small scale, Martin says the survey uncovered similar sentiments and perspectives among the senior executive respondents. He spoke with Mark Hagland during the conference to discuss the findings of the survey, and the implications of those findings. Below are excerpts from that interview.

What were the top-line findings of your first-ever survey of this type?

With all the caveats of that it was not a validated survey, and not projectable to the industry and sector, it is very consistent with what we’ve experienced with our clients—that there is a growing tide of interest and commitment in terms of long-term executive support of informatics. What’s missing is sufficient people, and adequate data sources. And some people are swimming in data, but they’re spending a lot of time trying to make it useful. And they’re spending their limited time cleaning up the data, making it useful. And until we get better data sources and really make the data useful on the front end, we’ll continue to use that precious resource in that manner. So we think it’s a real opportunity for the informatics for growth: AMIA’s purview is ripe for growth. As a firm, we didn’t really make comments in the report on our opinion about it. But from my meta perspective, it is becoming more important, and it’s going to follow on with a wave of people getting into it. And I think the demand for informaticists will continue.

Ross Martin, M.D.

What should our core audience of CIOs and CMIOs be thinking about right now?

I know that they’re so under the gun right now, just getting this stuff working operationally, let alone pondering the data strategy stuff. And I don’t mean this to sound self-serving, but for now, this is that edge where it may be worth it for them to outsource, while resources are scarce; and we may be a better aggregator of that than they can afford right now. And that stuff cycles. And everybody needs to be building capabilities.

You found that senior provider executives perceive internally developed clinical data sources as the most reliable, followed by claims data, prescription data, and patient registry/disease registry data, with EHR-derived and clinical data repository-derived data seen as a bit less reliable, and with data derived from personal health records (PHRs) the least reliable among the types asked about. What are your thoughts on those findings?

Those responses to me aren’t surprising, that people trust their internal data the most. They’ve spent more time living with it, which is why it’s probably most trusted. But if you’re an island of data, you think you’re doing well, but compared with what? So it’s really more valuable when coupled with external data. Claims data and prescription data… It’s interesting to me that providers value claims data and prescription data equally, because prescription data is probably the most mature of truly exchanged data. It goes from one place to another, and has to be reliable. And we see the adoption curve on e-prescribing increasing dramatically. And the historic claims—the claims data using prescriptions has been electronic for the longest period of time so far. So, we get more comfortable with it, as it simply becomes a part of commerce.

The PHR-derived data was on the whole the least valuable in the eyes of all those surveyed; and it’s a very immature market, right? I personally believe, long-term, that PHR-derived data will be the most important, once you’ve been able to develop a longitudinal record. And my wife has had cancer, and nobody has all the information except for her; she’s the only one who has the whole picture.

At the same time, as soon as the market alignment—and I think meaningful use will help drive that—the meaningful use Stage 2 rules force providers to provide information—that will change things. And once that happens more and more—I’ve been a long-term promoter of personal health records, even though I struggle to use them myself, because the value proposition isn’t yet there—but if I’m able to designate my provider, and if I’m the center of it, then if I want to make my data available for clinical research, I can make it available. I personally don’t care about my privacy as much as having an effect with the data. And that’s me; others feel differently about it. But the value proposition with personal health data is far larger. And when that matures, it will make it more worthwhile to make the front-end investment in making the data right to begin with. And that’s how we’ll ultimately make a host of things like health information exchange, happen.