Challenges with the use of digital healthcare data

While healthcare institutions are busy collecting terabytes of data the vast majority of digital information captured has no secondary use value. Information is created by proprietary systems using non-standard terminologies or it consists of claims data that may or may not truly represent what transpired during clinical care.   However, if information could be captured from systems in a manner that maintains it integrity the value to patient care, clinical research, and the business of medicine would be enormous.  Efforts to require systems to record all data in standardized formats need to continue and to be accelerated.

While this does seem like something that should not be that difficult to resolve, no community in the world has overcome barriers to complete interoperability.  There is a tremendous opportunity for talented individuals to acquire a deep understanding of the life cycle of data, including how the following entry and usage points:

  • Its point of capture in an EHR, patient oriented device, billing application etc.
  • The use of standard terminologies (e.g., SNOMED CT, LOINC, others)
  • Its local storage for primary uses (e.g., documentation for patient care, clinical decision support, etc.)
  • Its method of storage locally (level of detail captured, data/time stamps, post-coordination, etc.)
  • How it is exported and in what vehicles(e.g., HL7 messages, CCD, cCDA, etc.)
  • How data in imported from other systems

Dr. Michael Stearns

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