Report explores use of informatics to engage patients in managing their own care

Clinical informatics could help promote better population health and reduce healthcare costs, according to a new report from PwC US Health Research Institute (HRI). Those benefits will accrue if providers use informatics to engage patients in managing their own health, the study found.

The report also noted that health organizations view clinical informatics -- the integration of information technology into healthcare -- as paramount to their financial success and ability to effectively and affordably manage patient care and wellness.

The HRI report, "Needles in a haystack: Seeking knowledge with clinical informatics," looks at the state of clinical informatics and the needs, goals, barriers and opportunities that health organizations face in expanding their informatics capabilities. PwC US surveyed 600 health management professionals from hospitals and physician groups, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and life sciences companies nationwide. Among the findings:

  • Only 15 percent of health insurers and 13 percent of hospitals, physicians groups and other providers believe they've been able to influence patient behavior through their informatics efforts.
  • Nearly eight in 10 providers (79 percent) are looking to clinical informatics to help reduce medical errors, 61 percent hope to use it to improve population health, and 52 percent hope it will help them reduce costs by involving patients in preventative care routines.
  • Eighty-five percent of payers are counting on clinical informatics to improve management of complex cases such as care for patients diagnosed with cancer, 80 percent are seeking a reduction in preventable emergency room visits and hospital readmission rates, and 56 percent hope clinical informatics findings will lead to earlier diagnosis and prevention.

While surveyed organizations have different needs and expectations for their informatics programs, the one common informatics goal PwC found they all share is a better understanding of medication compliance. Billions of dollars a year in wasteful healthcare spending can be attributed to excess hospitalizations, premature deaths and other avoidable expenditures caused by patients who do not take medications as prescribed, the report explained.

"Health organizations recognize the value of effective informatics and analytics, but they are struggling to institutionalize the insight, make it actionable and use it for competitive advantage," said Daniel Garrett, health IT practice leader at PwC. "They need strategies for mining data, conducting and integrating evidence-based research, translating findings into practice, and influencing patients to participate in the process."

Click here to read more from the  "Needles in a haystack" report.

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