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Numerous industries are affected by the inability to find a sufficient skilled labor force. In the case of hospitals and healthcare systems, this labor gap often arises during the process of data integration.
Many health systems lack the sheer number of workers needed to perform advanced analytics. This hinders the organization’s ability to use data to drive decision-making, produce efficiencies and improve patient care. In other cases, the problem is over-reliance on systems that are not secure.
Yesterday, Kaushik Bhaumik, a partner and America’s leader for health technology at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), shared his views on how hospitals and healthcare systems can implement new ways to capture and store data. Today, he shares his thoughts with VentureBeat on what’s happening in hospitals and healthcare systems when it comes to data infrastructure.
VentureBeat: What are the most common data infrastructure challenges that hospitals typically face?
Kaushik Bhaumik: Major health systems not only contain electronic health records, but they also have to analyze and process large amounts of electronic data. Many hospitals still don’t have the analysts needed to organize data and pull meaningful results.
Or they don’t have systems that are secure and resilient. Cybersecurity is another major concern. Records must be encrypted when delivered. And steps must be taken to ensure that only certain people have access to the files.
The good news is that the industry has standards for moving data (HL7). But many improvements are still possible. For example, while patients want access to digestible information on their phones, many healthcare systems are not quite there yet. It’s a more complex interaction. But it’s improving, as the industry knows that digital patient engagement is critical to long-term success.
VB: What are the best practices for a hospital to evaluate its health information system and its governance?
Bhaumik: First, leaders need to examine privacy and security protocols and cyber safeguards. Organizations need to assess the risk potential of cyber threats. They should then develop mitigation plans if such a breach occurs.
Healthcare providers should look into HIPAA compliance and ask if patient records are secured. Only people involved in the patient’s care should have access to their records. Even then, it should only be for the data that is relevant to their purposes.
Secondly, it must be ensured that hospitals have interoperability capabilities. This way, when the data needs to be moved, it will be moved efficiently. This can be done through test runs by internal and external IT teams. These teams make sure platforms work and use FHIR [fast healthcare interoperability resources] standards. Hospital executives also need to consider the presentation of the data as it moves to ensure it makes sense.
Third is having an advanced team of data analysts. They must be able to turn large amounts of data into actionable items and trends, among other uses. By investing in a highly analytics-oriented team, hospitals and healthcare systems can improve quality of care, outcomes and lower costs. They are able to quickly synthesize reports and statistics and recognize patterns and other nuances.
Finally, organizations should prioritize deploying more cloud infrastructure. Hospitals and health systems are used to having their own data centers. Moving these systems to the cloud can improve access to data while saving operating costs.
VB: How can a hospital best integrate health data infrastructure into healthcare facilities and social services?
Bhaumik: This is when health equity comes into play. By better understanding the social determinants of health for their patient population, organizations can provide the right technology and infrastructure to ensure optimal care outcomes. This may include knowledge of what environmental factors they encounter, proximity to health resources, and other similar aspects that affect the health of the population.
In addition, hospitals must take into account the digital divide. This includes access issues and device preferences. About 23% of US households do not own a desktop or laptop computer. [That percentage increases for BIPOC individuals]. Therefore, when providing care and social services, hospitals must ensure that there are no more digital barriers experienced by vulnerable populations.
Hospitals know much of this knowledge intuitively. But they need to make it more quantitative. This is possible through advanced data analysis. Digital technology can give organizations more visibility. This includes not only the digital profiles of patients, but also public health and demographic trends. This can drive the development of composite risk scores and individual care plans through platforms powered by machine learning.
Ultimately, digital technology has the potential to help health systems and caregivers eliminate care variation along multiple dimensions.
VB: How well do hospitals typically do in incorporating new and emerging technologies and analytics into their systems and processes?
Bhaumik: It’s a work in progress because hospitals have limited budgets. The health care economy plays a role in how fast they can move forward. More often than not, payers and insurers have the money. Hospitals, on the other hand, have less budget to invest in new technologies.
Some believe that payers and the government should allocate more investment funds to hospitals. But ultimately, a lack of cash for strategic initiatives is the reason hospitals are not quick to move to digital progress.
VB: What do you think are the keys to building the workforce needed to operate a 21st century health infrastructure system?
Bhaumik: First and foremost, everyone in healthcare should have a basic understanding of analytics and data science. That is the next generation of evolution. When professionals have this background, they ask different questions and understand nuances.
Second, healthcare executives need to think about how to make patient relationships proactive rather than reactive. What they want is a health system where people take care of their health on a daily basis, and doctors and counselors are involved in preventive care. It is a fundamental shift away from a ‘sick care’ system.
To do that, rearranged incentives are needed. Healthcare systems need to deal with patients in a frequent, but not cumbersome way. Electronic nudges can help, and hopefully in the future will lead to a healthier population and patients who are less dependent on hospitals and health care.
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This post Without data analysts, even secure systems can hamper healthcare data infrastructure
was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/08/02/lack-of-analysts-secure-systems-still-hamper-many-healthcare-data-infrastructure-efforts/”