By David Lareau
For the last several years, health IT folks have been talking about the need for interoperability and the challenge of clinical record sharing. While interoperability between disparate systems and providers is improving, physicians still struggle to access relevant and usable information at the point of care. Providers may be sharing more clinical records, but we’re now drowning physicians in a sea of unorganized data.
The topic of artificial intelligence (AI) has also captured our imaginations in recent years as we consider AI’s potential for healthcare. We’ve had to sift through a lot of hype, but in the end, AI does hold promise for enhancing the delivery of care and automating administrative tasks.
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As we move into 2020, I predict a convergence of our interoperability and AI conversations as we explore how AI could help fix interoperability.
Clinicians have more data than ever - but lack usable information
Both the private sector and state and federal governments continue to promote interoperability improvements, including the adoption of communication standards and the use of open APIs to facilitate data exchange. In addition, the ONC and Congress are working to eliminate information blocking by providers and vendors.
While the progress is encouraging, we can’t measurably improve patient care simply by supplying physicians with more data – because unless it is logically filtered and well-managed, clinicians will end up drowning in data.
For a clinician needing to review a patient’s complete medical history, consider how inefficient the process can be:
• The clinician searches through the EHR to find relevant information, including previous lab and test results.
• In addition to reviewing notes generated in his or her own EHR, the clinician opens PDFs or scanned documents that originated from other providers. The clinician must sift through multiple documents to identify details that are relevant to the patient’s current problem.
• The clinician might also access the state’s HIE or log into the hospital’s EHR to find additional information, which again requires wading through multiple pages of notes to find usable information.
Depending on the complexity of the patient’s health and treatment, the physician may have an overwhelming amount of available data to review and assess in the 10-15 minutes (or less) allocated for each patient visit. When pressed for time, even the best clinicians can easily overlook pertinent information that is hidden within the huge volume of data.