The Data Zeitgeist of 21st Century Medicine

I vividly recall entering the health care information technology industry in 2007 with a personal sense of excitement and enthusiasm. That entry was met by a skeptical, cynical and even rebellious din from my physician peers.

Preparing my HIT presentations for health care audiences forced me to shine up my inner Teflon armor. I respected the noise. Physicians and other health care professionals were being asked to change the way they had managed health information for decades. Worse yet, we were being forced to adopt untested technologies. While uncertainty may be a standard reality in medicine, uncertainty in process and workflow is not. Such drastic changes in information gathering were a lot for physicians to absorb.

In addition, the noise was amplified by not knowing how the change to digitized health information would impact what physicians and health care professionals care about most — outcomes. When the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law in 2009, it was unclear how new technologies would alter patient care and how they might change the way physicians conducted day-to-day business.

More than seven years later — with the help of  source-agnostic, cloud-based health information data analytics technologies — I am hearing a renewed sense of optimism, acceptance, and support for digitized health information. Health data analytics are helping physicians meet quality care and outcomes goals. Doctors are finding new and successful ways to practice medicine as risk-based, value-over-volume reimbursement takes hold.

Health care data can be messy, siloed, at times unintelligible, and often difficult to use. Powerful data and analytics systems are changing that. Physicians can more easily identify gaps in care, see trends in evidence-based actionable patient outcomes, stratify patients based on a variety of risk profiles, and predict preventable outcomes.

We are experiencing a data zeitgeist that is molding how patient care is delivered and measured well into the 21st Century. This trend toward data-backed decision-making will revolve and evolve around analytics. The rebellious din I experienced almost 10 years ago has been replaced by physicians touting how data is driving a transformation in the ways they practice medicine.

It’s music to my ears.

For more on using analytics to turn big data into good data, download our E-book “Moneyball Analytics”

About the Author:

Carl JohnsonCarl Johnson, MD, EdM, MSc. is a pediatrician trained at Boston Children’s Hospital. He completed a Medical Education fellowship at Harvard Medical School and was a faculty health services researcher at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Before joining Optum Analytics he worked as a physician executive at Cerner Corporation. He is a graduate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and has held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School, University of California at San Francisco, The Ohio State University, and The Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Dr. Johnson believes that healthcare can be transformed with the help of the right data. When he is not helping to transform healthcare, he can be found playing tennis, cooking, perfecting his French, taking photographs, reading historical fiction, listening to music, and watching Ohio State Football.

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