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Managing the data explosion

Making health care data accessible and usable

 

 

This week, thousands of health IT professionals have made their way to HIMSS in Las Vegas to talk about industry challenges and the potential to improve how we deliver care. Health care today is facing challenges that are bigger than ever before – growing and aging populations, a larger variety of settings to manage, greater risk and, at the same time, higher aspirations from our customers. As the industry has shifted in the decades since this conference began, the key topics have evolved, but one highlight is undoubtedly the explosion of health care data. The volume, variety and depth of data today are all bigger than ever, and this is still just the beginning.
It’s not new news that health care data has exploded. From major consolidation into Integrated Delivery Networks to the shift to electronic medical records (EMRs), data has been surrounding us for years. Traditionally, this has been structured data that has resided in databases and has had the advantage of being easily entered, stored, queried and analyzed. But EMRs are managing very small data sets. Meanwhile, unstructured data – which adds great context but is not neatly managed – is booming. One of the drivers is the technological advancement of the devices themselves, as well as new modalities.

Many of our customers generate a staggering two million medical images a week that can be several hundreds of megabytes per piece. An even greater data explosion is on the horizon as digital pathology and genomics data storage become more widely adopted. Our files are growing from imaging data that was 100 MB per study ten years ago to being 2.5 GB per study today. As digital pathology and genomics get added, these studies can be 100 GB.

 

Now we have the challenge of managing this avalanche of data. But this challenge is also an unprecedented opportunity to bring together vast sources and quantities of data in order to see the broader picture of a patient’s health.

 

Setting the Data Free

Information without action is useless. CIOs want data to be accessible across their health systems so that caregivers can reference it when they need to – and in a way that aids in their clinical decision making. CIOs realize that EMRs and their other existing investments are already holding a significant amount of information that could be valuable to treatment if only they could put that clinical data in context. CIOs see the potential for managing their data successfully. So what’s stopping them?

Having the bigger picture requires having information at your fingertips – accessible anytime, anywhere. It means working across systems, settings and devices to deliver data in efficient and scalable ways. But the bigger picture doesn’t mean having the full set of data at all times. That can cause information overload. Knowing how to make sense of the data, how to determine what’s contextually relevant and how to derive meaningful insights is critical to truly understanding and acting on the data.

 

Consequently, it’s no wonder that health system CIOs are searching for scalable and high performance systems that can make that data accessible and usable.

 

The Cloud Potential

The technology industry takes the cloud for granted, but health care is still learning to harness it to its full potential. Many health systems invested in on-premise solutions to tackle the initial push toward electronic capture. There continues to be a need for these types of solutions to enable speed when needing immediate access, but the cloud offers its own advantages. Leveraging the cloud can empower health systems to share information over large distances and ensure the constant backing up of information. The cloud also allows for additional services to be added to it to analyze the data and enable population studies. In many cases, using a hybrid solution can provide these organizations with the resources they need.

 

Our role as a healthtech company and leader in clinical informatics is to help customers securely connect the data with a seamless and secure way – both on-prem and in the cloud – that does not interfere with the delivery of care. Beyond that, we provide the platform so everything is accessible in a singular view. By providing a one-stop-shop of individuals’ information, their health and wellness is easily captured and understood.

 

Personalized Data Means Personalized Care

As CIOs succeed in unlocking the data to provide the bigger picture of a patient’s health, they can power new modes of personalized care. Additional data points can be integrated into their records to give unprecedented perspectives.

For example, think about personal wearable devices for wellness. While these don’t currently factor into clinical care, imagine how having a record of a heart attack patient’s heart rate over the last ten hours may help inform an emergency room team’s care decision. Or think about how many specialists a cancer patient needs to see. When a tumor is discovered, the care team will do a biopsy that is then analyzed by pathologists. By digitizing the pathology process, files can be shared across sites more quickly so that multidisciplinary teams and specialists can confer, get/give second opinions and make diagnoses more quickly – and determine treatment for their particular case. This is all without the patients’ needing to carry slides with them from appointment to appointment.

 

While these are just two examples of how the data explosion can benefit patients, it’s important to remember that it’s the context around the data that makes the difference. Managing it properly, securing it and ensuring that it can perform as needed can unlock potential for an unprecedented level of care for people in an era when quality and satisfaction are our top priority.

Yair Briman


General Manager, Healthcare IT, Philips

Yair Briman is the general manager of Healthcare IT, leading the global Informatics health care businesses focusing on EMR, PACS, Cardiology informatics and Advanced Visualization. Prior to this role, Yair managed the Imaging Clinical Applications and Platforms (ICAP), delivering a leading solution for clinical applications that analyzes and virtualizes medical images and provides the Best-In-Class Integrated Application platform.

 

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