Healthcare IT (Part 2 of 2): A Data Overload

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Yesterday, we looked at the worker-shortage crisis facing healthcare IT departments around the country. Today, we look at the data and integration issues facing those same departments.

A compelling piece by Michael Zeis in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine breaks down these “considerable hurdles” into three categories, each of which are quoted below.

1.) “Healthcare IT groups strain under near-term reporting burdens.”

The chief example of this challenge is found in the Oct. 1, 2014, deadline for implementing the CMS ICD-10 code sets, Zeis reports, an implementation that “is demanding significant resources.”

Donna Abney, executive vice president of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, attests to this fact, saying, “Inside our IT shop right now, the anticipation of the workload associated with ICD-10 is overwhelming.”

According to a recent survey, 64 percent of healthcare leaders listed ICD-10 as their number-one challenge, followed by the overall requirements of PPACA, along with physician documentation.

2.) The move toward a value-purchasing model is forcing “many healthcare IT groups…to respond to a slew of internal demands for reporting and analysis.”

Two of IT’s top strategic drivers internally, Zeis writes, is care-coordination and clinical-decision support. He puts it this way: “The ability to focus on forward-thinking and complex IT development activities such as care coordination at the same time as responding to pressing regulatory reporting requirements suggests that there may be haves and have-nots when it comes to making IT investments.”

This is especially true as IT expands into clinical areas. Basically, it all comes down to priorities.

Indranil “Neal” Ganguly, CHCIO, FHIMMS, FCHIME, vice president and CIO for CentraState Medical Center, said there will be an even greater need for “prioritization models.” He observed: “IT departments are spending a lot of time now churning through requests, some of which may not be as valuable to the organization. We have to put prioritization models in place and get a strong sense of governance about how we run this piece of the business, because we have limited resources.”

3.)  “For a long time, the IT needs of the industry, especially on the clinical side of the house, have been met with highly targeted software applications. The consequence is that many organizations find they have to accommodate a variety of software packages and data structures, which presents vexing problems now that both business and clinical analytics depend on using an integrated set of data.”

For years, special-purpose software from multiple vendors would be used in different departments throughout the hospital that was “designed for their disciplines.” Now, all of that software must be joined together under one system. Obviously, this is a complicated process, especially when it comes to bringing clinical and financial data together.

Chris Snyder, DO, chief medical informatics officer for Peninsula Regional Medical Center, described it this way: “Usually financial data is very robust and functional. Often clinical data typically is not; it can be very fragmented.”

As healthcare leaders, what are your experiences with the three areas mentioned above? What strategic initiatives have you implemented to confront these hurdles? How do your IT departments manage this overload of data?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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