Did you know that the health information stored by your practice could be one of your most valuable assets?
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Explore This IssueDecember 2011
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Rheumatology practices currently own significant data resources from clinical, financial, and operational systems, but not many practices have turned these resources into information assets that can be used for effective decision making. Creating an information-management infrastructure to address the way your practice creates, consumes, and manages data can help you leverage the data owned by your practice to improve patient care, lower operational costs, improve revenue cycle management, and enhance your practice’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to changes in the healthcare environment.
Data Come from Many Sources
When “data” are mentioned in a healthcare context today, many assume that they exist in an electronic form. However, medical practice data exist in both paper and electronic systems and can originate from many systems. Today, health data exist outside of locked and static recording and storage mechanisms, and the patient medical record is evolving from labeled file folders to digital databases.
Tools like patient registries, electronic health record (EHR) systems, and health information exchanges are making data collection, management, and analysis more accessible for small practices. These tools empower providers to use information in medical records to support evidence-based patient care, regulatory compliance, quality-reporting initiatives, public and population health efforts, clinical research, and patient use of personal health records. Whether operating with an EHR or paper medical records, medical practices should consider data analysis and repurposing an essential part of operations.
Although there are tools available to support analysis and to maximize the value of your data, there are still significant challenges in managing the data and creating actionable information. Using paper medical records requires data to be manually abstracted and re-entered into systems that can then manipulate and analyze the information. EHR systems can streamline this process, but there are still usability issues with EHR data. These data are often captured in the form of a free text document or a scanned PDF, rather than as discrete identifiable data, making information difficult to find and analyze. The first step to effective information management is to assess the availability and quality of your data.
Collect Once, Use Many Times
As our health system evolves, so should our view of the medical record. With the increased complexity and costs of running a practice, an emphasis on highly coordinated and quality-oriented care, and a growing focus on the engaged and informed patient, the medical record has become more than an episodic documentation of care.