Moving Forward: Three Ways to Drive Data Innovation

February 20th, 2013 / By JaeLynn Williams

Remember those wish lists you came up with over the holidays, those resolutions you swore you were going to do in the New Year? Well, it’s February, which means if you haven’t already, it’s time to put those New Year’s resolutions to work. The same thing goes for the healthcare IT industry. Last month, Healthcare IT News asked me what I would most like to see happen in healthcare IT in 2013—my wish list for the industry. If I had time and space, my full list would probably stretch out the door, but for now, here are the top three changes I hope to see put in motion this year:

  1. Free the data and open the workflow
    Clinical data collected by EHRs has tremendous variation, so it can’t be easily mined or freely shared between people and institutions. Standardizing and normalizing data as it is stored is an essential first step in making it accessible and usable. We know how to do this, but as an industry we haven’t made the effort. More importantly, we need to create open access to the vast stores of clinical data that exist within healthcare. Right now this data is available to only those who collect it, and is limited in large part to the proprietary systems housing the data. We need to free the data to drive better healthcare and better tools and systems.
  2. Drive change through innovation, not regulation
    Healthcare change is currently driven more by response to regulation than by pure innovation. This has left us with a lot of work to do (meaningful use, etc.), but little visible impact on cost or quality.  I wish healthcare would steal a play from the consumer industry—let patients and markets drive solutions. Apple did not wait for government regulation to create a new standard for apps and app distribution. Let’s embrace the same thinking in healthcare and develop new ideas and processes that are so much simpler, faster, and better, they drive their own change.
  3. Health is life: Engage and empower the consumer. We need the consumer to engage with their digital healthcare record in the same way they do their bank accounts. Consumers should hold their providers responsible for providing access to accurate data and demand consistent ways of measuring quality outcomes and cost. If we get information in the hands of the consumer, the consumer will become a powerful—perhaps the most powerful—constituency in healthcare. When consumers vote with their wallet on the healthcare services they value, the industry will respond to their demands.

These are not radical ideas. They are simply necessary steps that we need to take to enable our larger goals. If we can eliminate barriers to data, we will unleash an innovation firestorm. And that, I think, is a resolution that we all would like to keep.

JaeLynn Williams is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Client Operations with 3M Health Information Systems.