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At iHT2 New York, Making Data Analytics Real in Patient Care Organizations

September 30, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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Participants in a panel held during the Health IT Summit in New York delved into the complexities of leveraging data analytics to support improvements in patient care and wellness

As patient care organizations nationwide move forward to try to leverage data analytics tools in healthcare, the challenges of how to translate theoretical gains into actual gains in care delivery and outcomes improvement continue to pose significant obstacles. That was the consensus of a panel of healthcare leaders gathered to discuss the topic on Wednesday during the Health IT Summit in New York, sponsored by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2—a sister organization to Healthcare Informatics, under the corporate umbrella of the Vendome Group LLC).

The panel discussion, entitled “Data Analytics for State-of-the-Art Care,” took place on Wednesday, Sep. 30, the second full day of the Health IT Summit, at Convene, a conference center in lower Manhattan. Shafiq Rab, M.D., vice president and CIO at Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center, served as moderator, and his fellow panelists were Al Villarin, M.D., CMIO and director, Division of Quality Analytics, at Staten Island University Hospital, Northshore-LIJ Healthsystem (and a practicing emergency physician); Jay Srini, chief strategist, SCS Ventures, and adjunct faculty assistant professor at the  University of Pittsburgh; Bill Fox, vice president, Healthcare and Life Sciences, at MarkLogic (San Carlos, Calif.); and Joseph Hobbs, regional CIO, NetApp Healthcare (Sunnyvale, Calif.), and a former hospital CIO.

When Dr. Rab asked how the use of data analytics has evolved to the place where it’s at right now in healthcare, Srini said, “The first part of it is that initially, we needed to collect information. And when you look at data, we looked axes such as volume, variety, and velocity; but more important than all of those is the value of the data. And how do we analyze it? We’ve automated it now,” and that was a first, important phase. “So how do we aggregate it?” she asked. “And how do we provide it to caregivers and other end-users, and even patients? Liquidity is important.”

Hobbs noted that “We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years normalizing data” in the healthcare industry. “Another big challenge we have is physician documentation in that some of the data we’re trying to leverage is not discrete data. And so we’re still working to pull out discrete data. So it’s taking all these things,” and making them analyzable, that is one of the biggest challenges right now.

“How do we drive analytics to the bedside?” Rab asked.

In turn, Villarin answered his question with a question. “How do we sell cars today? It’s the same question, but with a different response,” Villarin said. “I love a car that can give me great power, comfort, and usability.” Meanwhile, in the healthcare delivery context, he said, “You have to design a graphical user interface like anything else: cars, TVs, xBox, iPad. It has to be ergonomically modeled for end-users--not just physicians, but anybody. We have to build for this as a ubiquitous interaction, beginning from medical school. We have to have a unification of the data stream going to those clinical people. And that’s where the EMR comes in,” he said. “Right now, we have disparate data. How do we wrap analytics around NLP [natural language processing], voice recognition, ADT [admitting/discharge/transfer], telemetry systems? It’s all important.”

Villarin went on to say, “The hospital is a brain, like our brain, but it needs stimulus. You have to make things automatic. If you have to think about accessing data from systems, you’re lost. So it has to be automatic and sent to end users. So GUI, automation of data, and embedding the intelligence for the clinician, to know what’s going on with the environment of data around them.”

Very importantly, Fox said, “We need to present physicians and nurses with the same experience they’re getting everywhere else. There was this old saying attributed to Microsoft, nobody’s going to want a computer in their house. Nobody wanted “that” computer in their house, it had to be changed. The same is with analytics. If we’re looking within healthcare, that’s not where we’re going to find the solution to how these things will be adopted. Banks are getting people to go online all the time, because everybody’s worried about their money,” he noted. “How can you make that portal experience for the consumer, so they actually go to your website, rather than Google, for health information? And how do you get that doctor to go to your portal and get the same kind of information each time?”

With regard to that, Hobbs said, “I was talking to a CIO yesterday, and he was saying, we’ve got 7 million reports, but people in his hospital are saying that they have to go look for it. It’s about putting into the clinical workflow.

Srini pointed out that “The human brain can look at about eight different concepts at any particular time. And now, with the explosion of new information, and the number of drugs being released every day, it’s impossible to keep up.” There is so much data that could be helpful to clinical care, she noted, for example, significant amounts of genomic data that oncologists would like to have available to them for managing their care delivery. “There are many options, but a lot of the information isn’t in their workflow. So until we can connect these various pieces into their workflow,” she said, it will remain difficult to optimize the use of analytical information, on the part of physicians and other clinicians.