I was chatting with some colleagues in the healthcare industry last week. We were discussing the latest healthcare reforms in the USA and the role that technology plays. Indeed the recent announcement by the World Health Organization that the Swine Flu epidemic has been raised to “pandemic” status is a clear indicator of the need to focus on saving lives. There is nothing more powerful, or emotional, than hearing about lives being saved. Technology plays a critical role in today’s society, but it is the ability to use technology to understand trusted data and then make life-saving decisions based on it is especially critical.
We were talking about a variety of examples of where a better understanding of data helps improve lives and save lives. I want to talk about how and why data is critical. Data allows us to understand what is happening, who is affected, where disease is spreading and how to combat it. It’s not applications, or business process or people. Yes, all of these help – but at the heart of the ability to understand health is “data”. We live in a real-time world where health issues are reported at the speed of light across the internet before we even wake up. We all watch, we all listen and we all observe. Yet, how do we act? How do we take in the data and act upon it?
Data integration is a critical enabler in this process. It provides the ability to access data from any system, from anywhere, pull it together, deliver it correctly, accurately and in a timely manner to those that can act. This is important. I wanted to share a few examples of such cases in order to help people understand the need for data, and the analysis of that data, that helps save lives. If we can analyze more data, track more cases, share health records effectively, then we can continue to improve lives and save lives.
- The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services uses data integration to streamline case management and get assistance to families quickly
- The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration uses data integration as the platform for a geospatial warehouse that enables citizens to locate health services near where they live
- The U.S. CMS Office of Clinical Standards and Quality (HHS) uses data integration to build and maintain a central data store of quality of care information called the Quality Improvement Organization Warehouse
- The U.S. Department of Defense uses data integration as a critical component of the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA), its system for monitoring the overall health of military personnel
- The U. S. Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration use data integration to make sure timely, accurate data on medical and surgical products is fully synchronized within their Product Data Bank
- The Linked Person Record for Cancer (LPRC) links data from disparate sources to create a person-centred view of screening, diagnosis and treatment across the cancer continuum. This linkage of information will support improved identification of new cases of cancer in Ontario and allow analysts and researchers to measure the quality of cancer treatment, plan for future resource needs, and gain understanding of outcomes.
- In Australia Identity Resolution is being used by the Cancer Council of New South Wales to help in the fight against cervical cancer. This organization created an award-winning register and Identity Resolution is a critical element of this system. It provides a way of matching a new test against the existing database which is important because pathology laboratories rely upon a patient’s previous test history when screening their current test. It is also critical in ensuring that each patient on the Register is reminded to attend for subsequent cancer screening.
- The Hong Kong hospital authority is responsible for all hospitals in Hong Kong. They adopted a data integration platform in 2004 following the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory System) and use it to enable their doctors and medical staff to have better access to relevant information to help improve patient care across the region.
When I consider these examples, I am humbled. Data integration is the enabling technology and a critical element for doctors and the healthcare profession to help improve and save lives.