Big Data Holds Promise for Physician Practices, Challenges for HIM
Big Data has the potential to transform how office- and hospital-based physicians treat their patients , even though the starting point is hard for most providers to see right now, a panel of experts acknowledged this week.
The collection of Big Data—data comprised from sources such as electronic health records (EHRs), patient portals, claims, genomics, imaging, social media, consumer data, biometrics, and other sources—has the ability to impact how care is delivered much more rapidly than in the past, according to panelists in a Modern Healthcare webinar entitled “IT Advancements, Trends, and Innovations: Effective Uses of Big Data.”
The concept of Big Data and its implications for health information management professionals is an emerging topic. The webinar addressed ways it can be used to improve the patient experience in physician practices and hospitals.
Small and medium-sized physician practices can get started in Big Data initiatives now, according to panelist Jason Mitchell, MD, director of the Center for Health Information Technology at the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“I can’t overemphasize how much delivery of intelligence has to be integrated within clinician workflow,” Mitchell said. “The tools most folks are [already] interacting with. Working with accountable care organizations, with health information exchanges that may be local, those connections have to be a part of daily activity. I’d reach out and look beyond four walls of practice. Those functionalities will expand a lot over the next five years.”
In terms of improving research and interventions, Diana S.M. Buist, PhD, MPH, senior investigator and epidemiologist at the Group Health Research Institute, noted that while randomized clinical trials are considered a mainstay, they are slow, costly, and often result in findings that are difficult to put into practice.
However, data mined from EHRs, HIEs, and administrative claims is abundant, inexpensive, unbiased, and increasingly readily available.
Steven Spalding, MD, head of the Center for Pediatric Rheumatology at the Cleveland Clinic, agreed, but added that introducing Big Data brings with it serious privacy concerns.
“The ethical considerations about who owns data is enormous,” Spaulding said. “It originates with patient, but is collected through various methods owned by other entities that have experience in leveraging information in goals they have… The challenge is keeping it relevant to reduce risk of breach which could have enormous potential risk.”
But Buist pointed out that most consumers don’t yet understand how Big Data is already being used in other settings without protections. For example, corporations such as CVS, Walgreens, and Amazon use Big Data to tailor online marketing to consumers.
“It’s an important discussion,” Buist said. “Yes, protections need to be in place, but discussions about who owns the data needs to be had, especially in terms of controlling costs.”