by Jeff Schar, Sendero Managing Director and Nashville Market Lead

Data isn’t new to the healthcare scene. But the current volume of data is.  

People are dedicating their careers to developing the systems, methods, and technologies we need to most effectively analyze patient data. Dr. Peter Embí, Chair of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Biomedical Informatics and Senior VP for Research & Innovation, is one of these people. Recently, he joined the TN HIMSS Executive Dinner Series as the keynote speaker to discuss the fundamental challenges in the healthcare-research paradigm. During the dinner, he shared how his personal healthcare research journey and the power of data-driven decision making significantly impacted his life. Here are three of the themes that came up in the conversation:

  1. Quality. There’s an opportunity to use data more safely and more intentionally to drive better patient outcomes. Health systems are realizing this and are investing in informatics programs so we can build the tools needed to analyze that data. Emerging technological capabilities, like artificial intelligence, can process more patient information in minutes than a human could process in a lifetime. But how can we be sure that our AI systems are accurate? And, equally as important, safe? The key lies in ensuring that we’re inputting quality data and doing so responsibly. For example, unconscious bias in the data we collect or the people we collect it from can lead to future problems for historically underrepresented populations. It’s important to address this proactively. Meticulous quality control today is the only way we’ll be able to build a strong foundation for the future.
  2. Process Integration. Informatics teams are focused on utilizing the tools and processes we need to ensure that there’s quality information behind our future data-driven, learning health systems. The challenge here is fostering a strong partnership between these technical teams and clinical care teams. There’s no way around it: providers’ top priority is patient care. In addition to this, providers are being asked to navigate an array of new tools and processes. With this volume of demands, providers can fall behind on the data platforms their health systems are using, creating a knowledge gap between employees. Without proper training or change management, informatics-based programs become one more thing on their to-do list. This presents a risk to the foundation of informatics tools that will, one day, play a more active role in determining patient care.
  3. Consumerization. Data analytics is becoming more ingrained in health systems, sure. But it’s also becoming a foundation for nearly every industry in the world today. People, especially Millennial and Gen Z populations, are increasingly savvy when it comes to using data to drive solutions. Health systems should embrace this and look to consumers to understand what data they are interested in to manage their own health, and work to make it available to them and give them the tools to manage their health in between visits.

There’s a lot of excitement in the industry right now. There’s also a lot of change fatigue as providers and patients are constantly exposed to the next new thing. The growing challenge for leaders in the healthcare space is to balance this excitement and drive for innovation with thoughtful integration into existing practices and protocol.