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The healthcare industry has yet to find an effective way to manage the vast abundance of data shared between providers, payers, digital health startups and government agencies. Anyone working in the sector could probably point to ongoing challenges such as data overload, hidden information and differing data accuracy standards.

Historically, healthcare advancements when it comes to technology and data management have lagged behind other industries. As the sector continues to grapple with the management and use of data, healthcare stakeholders should learn from the data improvement strategies that other industries have implemented over the past decade, according to a report recently released by a data-providing company in healthcare Smart medical objects. For example, healthcare can learn from the data management strategies implemented by the military, aerospace and aviation sectors.

Prioritize data standardization

Data for data’s sake isn’t worth much — the value comes from usability. For data to be useful, end users must be able to quickly and clearly understand the message being communicated. This is difficult without common clinical terminology. Without a common clinical data language, health data often becomes less useful the further away it is from its original source, the report states.

To learn how to address this issue, healthcare stakeholders can turn to the U.S. Army a plan to modernize medicine. The Army implemented the strategy last year because it needed a more effective way to respond to threats on the battlefield and treat service members on the front lines.

Under the plan, the Army uses a universal digital medical record for its frontline soldiers. The service branch developed common data standards, clinical terminologies, and message formats. These standard practices are followed throughout the organization, from first responders on the scene to administrative workers who may need to facilitate a medical evacuation from the other side of the world.

The plan ensures that Army health data is understandable and actionable for every member of the organization, the report said. But in the U.S. health care delivery system, a lack of common standards and terminology means data is often not meaningful and/or machine-readable as it travels between different providers, health plans and patients, according to the report.

Let go of the “need to know” mindset.

When healthcare leaders lament the current state of data management in their industry, the word “closed” comes up a lot. The fact that data gets stuck in separate teams and systems is a clear source of frustration.

NASA also struggled with data interoperability until it created a new one data strategy in 2021. Under the plan, NASA consolidated its data and made it available to more employees. An organization’s chief data officer is now responsible for spreading data across the organization and encouraging more data sharing.

This has created more confidence in NASA’s information, meaning more employees are using the data to improve their operations, the report said. Previously, data was often viewed only by executives and managers.

Health care would also benefit from adopting an organization-wide approach to data sharing that considers the different uses of patient information downstream, the report suggests. Currently, most of the data documented in EHRs is used only for reporting — whether that reporting is for revenue, fee-for-service billing or defensive medicine, the report said.

If the data were readily available to all members of the health care system, workers could review that information more often and glean insights that could improve patient care, according to the report. For example, physicians may feel more empowered to analyze data in their hospital to see what factors contribute to their patients’ adherence rates. Nurses can analyze data on how ward staffing levels affect patient outcomes and take those findings back to their employer to create a plan for better staffing.

Define data management roles

Like the healthcare sector, the aviation industry collects its data from multiple sources and systems. Unlike the healthcare sector, airlines have created committees to manage this data as a strategic asset, the report states.

with Order 1375.1F, the Federal Aviation Administration established its Chief Data Office and Corporate Information Management Steering Committee. These bodies are cross-organizational groups that provide authority for how airlines can use data to make strategic decisions. The various airlines are all cooperating with these authorities and their data standards to improve customer service and reduce operating costs, according to the report.

“Just as the FAA created clear roles and responsibilities for those responsible for data management, delineating a plan that assigns responsibility for managing and maintaining the issue list can help make patient information more accurate and useful at the point of care and beyond,” the report said.

Photo: eichinger julien, Getty Images

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