Are Your Health Data Efforts a Foundation for the Future?

I recently was talking with Jonathan Sheldon from Oracle and I was inspired by the idea that today’s data projects could be the essential foundation for future healthcare analytics and care that form what we now call Precision Medicine. Chew on that idea for a minute. There’s a lot of power in the idea of building blocks that open up new avenues for innovation.

How many healthcare ideas have been shot down because “that’s impossible”? Lots of them. Why are so many of these things “impossible”? They’re impossible because there are usually 10-15 things that need to be accomplished to be able to make the impossible possible.

Take healthcare analytics as an example. I once worked with a clinician to do a study on obesity in our patient population. As we started to put together the study it required us to pull all of the charts for patients whose BMI was over a certain level. Since we were on an EHR, I ran the report and the clinician researching the study easily had a list of every patient that met her criteria. Imagine trying to do that study before EHR. Someone would have had to manually go through thousands of paper charts to identify which ones met the criteria. No doubt that study would have been met with the complaint “That’s impossible.” (Remember that too expensive or time consuming is considered impossible for most organizations.)

What I just described was a super simple study. Now take that same concept and apply it beyond studies into things like real time analytics displayed to the provider at the point of care. How do you do that in a paper chart world? That’s right. You don’t even think about it because it’s impossible.

Sometimes we have to take a step back and imagine the building blocks that will be necessary for future innovation. Clean, trusted data is a good foundational building block for that innovation. The future of healthcare is going to be built on the back of health data. Your ability to trust your data is going to be an essential step to ensuring your organization can do the “impossible”.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • John,

    Someone close to me has a form of an autoimmune disorder; a rare, hard to pin down version of an orphan disease. Every patient who comes down with it may have it as a primary or secondary disease, and there are a few main variations, many smaller ones, and perhaps even combinations. No one really knows, in fact it’s hard to pin down viable treatments for the many variations because the data is mostly on paper. This one person has had a number of different treatments trying to control or reduce the illness, and unless one charts every treatment and every blood test, it is next to impossible to spot possible effects of treatments that might signal a better way to handle the illness. With all the numbers in an inches thick paper folder, there is little chance of getting a clear picture.

    As a result, the patient does not get optimized treatment, and conclusions as to progress or lack thereof are mostly seat of the pants. And that’s just one patient. In this illness, with so many patients having so many variations, the only real way to make progress in fighting it is through data collection and integration. Enough doctors in enough systems all carefully charting their patients with this illness with enough blood tests and med info, all drawn into a central database with (non-identifiable) data to analyze and work with could lead to improved diagnostics and treatments. For this to happen, there has to be real progress with interoperability and population health.


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