How Carolinas HealthCare uses quality patient data to boost disease management

By Annette M. Boyle

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from FierceHealthIT's new eBook, Interoperability: The Path to Management and Standardizing Health Data. Check out all of the articles by downloading the eBook here.

For the 25 million Americans with asthma, finding a way to consistently assess the severity of their symptoms, determine the most appropriate treatment and ensure adherence offers the promise of fewer hospital visits, markedly improved quality of life and lower mortality risk.

By integrating qualitative data from patients, disease management guidelines and payer information, Carolinas HealthCare has created tools that promise to improve the flow of both air and data.

Asthmatics frequently seek care in physician offices or emergency departments, but physicians find they often have little idea how well prescribed treatments actually control a particular patient's asthma.

In addition, the number of guidelines and treatment recommendations released by pulmonary and primary care associations, varying payer formularies and individual patient preferences combine to make choosing the right course of treatment daunting.

"The challenge was how to improve the data going into the electronic medical record [EMR] and then optimize the information coming out to improve the efficiency of providers and more easily extract data for analytics so we could also measure effectiveness," says Michael Dulin, M.D., Ph.D. (pictured), chief clinical officer for analytics and outcomes research at Carolinas HealthCare System, a network of 900 care locations in North and South Carolina that includes 36 hospitals, plus physician practices, rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities.

"Most electronic health records were designed to replicate paper charts, without much thought to what could we do with the data once it is available electronically or how it could be used for population analytics," Dulin says.

Analyzing integrated clinical, claims and administrative data enables the institution to better track outcomes and provide valuable feedback to clinicians to improve care. "Data integration can help providers ensure that we're developing and deploying best practices for population health," says Allen Naidoo, vice president of advanced analytics at Carolinas HealthCare. "This offers us the ability to make more informed decisions for patient care."

The health system wanted to roll out the asthma care project across all its ambulatory sites, making physician participation in planning critical to success. "We studied the process from the provider side. Providers are doing more today with less time today, so we wanted something that would make their work flow more efficient. To make it work, we needed provider buy in upfront and feedback throughout the development process," Dulin says.

--> READ MORE: Download the full eBook, Interoperability: The Path to Management and Standardizing Health Data.

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