I spent the past couple days in Washington, D.C., among hundreds of healthcare data experts. These are my main takeaways from this great event. Health agencies and organizations currently face many challenges as they move to modernize, become paper-free at the point of care, and use collected data to derive key information as decision-making drivers for industry innovation. In many ways, the healthcare industry has been left in the dark ages of technology, from an infrastructural standpoint, with barriers stagnating discovery of potential solutions to global health issues.
The development of a variety of non-interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHR) has created an environment in which healthcare data is divided into silos. The lack of communication between disparate EHR systems generates data that cannot be easily transferred or shared among stakeholders in the industry. Add to that severe variances within the data itself, even with the development of Common Concept Data Standards, which means large percentages of data collected are deemed not fit for use or are otherwise incomplete. In an industry that relies on the longitudinal collection of data for research and advancement, not being able to digest and connect multisource datasets to develop tangible and usable information has generated an environment where researchers and physicians cannot efficiently collaborate.
The most compelling moment of the conference was Vice President Joe Biden’s plea for help in the “moonshot” goal to find a cure for cancer by 2020. In full disclosure, politics and what politicians have to say has never been a big interest of mine. Had he been talking about anything else, I probably would have simply tuned it out. I don’t believe I misspeak when I say cancer has, in some way, affected just about everyone reading this blog. If you’ve made it this far, you can see where data quality, standardization, and increased accessibility is crucial if improvements are to be made to the point where cancer doesn’t provoke distress and anxiety whenever diagnosed.
I realize that much (if not all) of this blog has so far been negative, and that I have only pointed out the shortcomings of the state of healthcare data. The truth is, I came away from the conference pretty optimistic. This event touched home because improving data quality is the core of what we do at Experian (the words Data and Quality are literally in our name). If we can do our bit to help organizations modernize technologically by providing solutions like Experian Pandora and our quality assurance tools, then maybe Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” isn’t as out of the question as it seems. With so many people dedicated towards the same goal of improving data quality in healthcare, maybe soon there will be a “golden” patient record and data will become more accessible, leading to increased ease of collaboration and further catalyzing accelerated expansion in areas previously thought impossible.