More data means more possibilities and more challenge

Tracy Reid’s late husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 39 and passed away one year later.

“It happened 12 years ago,” said Reid, now director, customer value and integration, Baxter. “I think about what his life would be like in today’s world, where a genetic mutation can be identified early on before it progresses to stage 4 inoperable cancer — and doctors can intervene with effective treatment early on.”

Like Reid, healthcare leaders now understand the value of connected medical devices and patient monitoring technologies.

“Healthcare organizations are the recipients of all new forms of data that are collected while patients use devices remotely,” she said. “During COVID, we have identified possibilities associated with the use of mobile devices to manage and treat illnesses outside of acute care facilities. The data collected prompts providers to intervene when deterioration is identified and empowers patients and their caregivers to take control of their own health.”

Indeed, with data access, it is possible to better understand disease processes and improve outcomes.

For example, as a former respiratory therapist, Reid appreciates how much access to real-time data can help the growing population of chronic obstructive pulmonary patients (COPD).

“COPD patients are often also patients with heart failure – this is a very fragile condition,” she said. So changes can happen very quickly and can push patients towards needing emergency help. Physiological monitoring via biometrics and wearable devices can identify risk factors that can drive care intervention to reduce hospitalization risks and improve outcomes.”

Aggregated data drives medicine forward. “Research and life sciences companies are taking advantage of genomic mapping to detect genetic mutations for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and even autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis,” Reed noted.

Remove obstacles

However, relying on data extracted from remote machines comes with challenges such as:

Connection. A reliable, low-latency network is required for multiple stakeholders to share data. “There is still a population in rural areas that does not have the critical infrastructure to allow remote monitoring,” she noted.

storage. When dealing with massive amounts of data, storage is an urgent concern. While cloud storage is viable, leaders need to address HIPAA compliance and security issues with this option.

normalization. Data that is routed into analytics applications must be valid and consistent. Even a small amount of dirty data can lead to inaccurate conclusions, according to Reid.

reporting. Health care organizations (HCOs) generate many claims and performance and quality reports annually. To do this successfully, HCOs need to structure data and turn it into a visual asset. Fortunately, many software products can support such efforts.

compatibility. Sharing data between stakeholders is becoming increasingly important as the industry moves towards value-based care.

“The HL7 Standards Development Organization has been in existence for more than three decades now, and continues to … create standards and frameworks for the exchange of electronic health information,” Reid said.

FHIR takes efforts further as it improves data exchange by relying on software that uses APIs to simplify system integration.

“FHIR brings us closer to that liquid state of sharing highly detailed information that benefits patients, payers, providers, and device manufacturers,” she said. “The caveat is that FHIR comes with its fair share of challenges — and it can be a significant and expensive investment.”

In addition to addressing these challenges, HCOs are discovering the value of working with trusted partners who can help turn data into intelligence that improves care and ultimately saves lives.

“Over the past year, many healthcare organizations have created unique partnerships for their data vaccination with healthcare device and data companies to extract meaningful insights into disease, vaccine efficacy, and adverse events,” Reed concluded.

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