Thanks to health IT, healthcare providers and other stakeholders are sitting on mountains of information--but it has yet to be mined to yield its full riches, says Jennifer Covich Bordenick (pictured), CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based eHealth Initiative, an independent, nonprofit organization geared toward improving healthcare quality and safety through the use of technology.
"We spent time figuring out how to collect data and the neat things we can do with it," Bordenick tells FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview. "To do that, we need good analytic tools. CIOs recognize that, but a miniscule amount have the tools to do it."
The results of a recent survey from eHI and the College of Healthcare Informatics Management Executives "tell us a lot about what little we know," Bordenick says. That survey showed, for example, that while hospital CIOs considered the most important use of data to be analyzing clinician utilization and patient outcomes, the most common use of data was financial management.
Among the challenges, Bordenick says, are how to best analyze and share data when it's "sitting in lots of little buckets." Within a hospital system, for example, different departments control their own data, she says. Different stakeholders maintain their own information. Even when data-sharing is possible, according to Bordenick, issues of trust linger over data security and the quality of data maintained in another silo.
"But it's a good problem to have," she adds. "They have data and they're trying to figure out what to do with it. We used to pull [paper] medical records to figure this stuff out."
Accordingly, eHI's focus will begin shifting beyond the mechanics of electronic health record adoption, to helping the healthcare community connect and share data available through EHRs and other health IT, Bordenick says.
"It's really got to be in the hands of doctors and patients," she says. "We're not quite there. The expectation is they're not meeting that need because the systems are not set up that way now. That's where we want to get."
Meaningful Use "is just a step in the right direction," Bordenick says. "It's not just about EHRs."
For instance, she notes, retail drug stores have data. For that matter, so, too, do schools and insurers and public-health entities. That's important, she says, because consumers spend just a fraction of their time at doctor's offices or clinics.
"If you really want to impact somebody's health, you've got to get to them where they are 95 percent of the time," Bordenick says.
Somewhat surprisingly, she adds, consumers might be the driving force in prompting providers to figure out how to analyze and share health IT data in a meaningful way. Patients "have all of this information available in every other facet of their lives, and they're starting to expect the same level of convenience with healthcare," she says.
With the "techie generation" maturing, consumers also are becoming more willing to share their information, Bordenick believes, and more interested in reaping the benefits of data-sharing than worried about the risk of their information being compromised. "It's not as scary as it was initially," she says.
To that end, expect eHI to put increasing focus in 2013 on seeking out best practices for predictive analytics and data exchange, Bordenick says. The initiative will set the stage later this month with the release of a survey on health information exchange.
Bordenick declined to detail the findings, but hints that "the idea of data exchange has morphed. It's not about formal health information exchanges," she says. "It's about the act itself of exchanging information."
Bordenick adds that the organization also will focus next year on the link between accountable care and analytics.