If physicians have access to more clinical data, does this mean that patient outcomes are enhanced? Possibly, but only if providers can retrieve the most relevant information quickly, in a logical format, and at the point of care.
More clinical data is available to physicians than ever before. New government initiatives encouraging electronic data exchange and advanced technologies make it easier to translate disparate but related clinical concepts from multiple sources.
Clinical data exchange, however, is inherently complex. Medications, diseases, procedures, and other medical concepts each follow unique coding and classification systems, such as RxNorm, LOINC, CPT, ICD-9 and ICD-10. The use of standard terminologies improves interoperability between disparate systems because similar concepts can be linked together. A common language for clinical terms is thus critical for the efficient exchange of data between health systems, physicians, labs, pharmacies and other venues of care.
With technology in place to facilitate data exchange, individual physicians are now flooded with vast amounts of clinical data. While this wealth of information is a boon to healthcare, its value is not fully realized unless providers have tools to decipher and organize the information in a usable format at the point of care.
Consider the typical patient exam. Physicians can access patient-specific data from their own EHRs, as well as HIEs, labs and hospitals. If a patient has multiple complications, such as diabetes, heart disease and neuropathy, the clinical history may be extensive. A doctor simply does not have time to wade through all available information to identify the specific elements relevant to the current encounter. To maximize the value of clinical data, providers require clinical filtering tools at the point of care.
Clinical filtering tools identify, translate and sort a patient’s history, regardless of the original source. When this type of technology is embedded within a practice’s EHR, the physician can create a chart note, input findings and quickly pinpoint the historical clinical details relevant to today’s visit - all without ever having to leave the documentation screen.
The care process can be enhanced further with the addition of clinical prompting technology that considers details from the current encounter and cross-references it with empirical data. While documenting at the point of care, physicians can be presented with information that can support diagnosis, help to develop the most appropriate treatment plan, and provide critical data for compliance and reimbursement.
While access to more clinical data is a critical first step to enhancing patient outcomes, physicians need additional tools to efficiently manage the information.
Dave Lareau is CEO at Medicomp Systems.