Can you trust your healthcare data?

With the pressures COVID-19 is putting on hospitals, layered on top of the longer-term goals of lowering costs and value-based care, the importance of having good, actionable data has never been clearer. But as we’ve outlined previously, hospitals face plenty of challenges pressing their data into productive, analytics use, starting with the problems of obtaining high-quality data.

An important measure of the quality of your data set is the ability to compare your results to those of other healthcare systems — and preferably more than one. Armed with real-world and real-time data, a hospital can validate patient outcome results against a much larger data set while controlling for variables, and gain confidence that their data is trustworthy. And by having trust in their data, hospitals can begin the difficult but necessary work of changing behaviors and standard practices, and ultimately help their patients.

The only problem? Clinical data is often the least trusted kind of data generated in the hospital setting.

Falling short of trustworthy

Pharmacy and therapeutics committees frequently wrestle with not being able to compare data. For example, the team might be discussing a new FDA-approved medication for treating congestive heart failure. The challenge is the uncertainty of the drug’s efficacy among specific cohorts, such as age, gender or prior comorbidities.

Another common problem is missing information. Here at Agilum, many of us have served on hospital P&T committees, where it was common to see documentation lacking in certain procedural areas due to simple human error. We recall many instances where a physician on the committee pointed out that some of his patient records didn’t appear in the data set, usually because they were never transcribed into the EMR from his hand-written notes. If the problem was widespread enough, it could mean entire service lines missing from the data.

It’s not enough to be a large health system with hospitals in multiple states and a standardized data-collection infrastructure across the care continuum. Most health systems operate hospitals of vastly differing sizes, with some staffed by hospitalists and others offering more specialized groups of physicians. In order to know who is providing the best care and outcomes at the lowest costs, you need the ability to compare data by site and in real-time — something many health systems don’t have the ability to do.

You need a representative, near real-time data set to fully evaluate a drug’s effectiveness on a large patient population.

Building trust

At Agilum, we offer a proprietary, nationwide longitudinal database of patient records to compare treatments, drugs, processes and costs to help you identify how to generate the best outcomes at the lowest total costs. To strengthen its validity, Agilum purchases several healthcare data indices, such as Wolters Kluwer, the American Medical Association’s CPT and HCPCS coding files, and AHFS to determine the accuracy of our tables, ensure they align with industry standards and are fit for use in analytics.

We use the indices to make sure our data is organized by recognized therapeutic categories and is more robust and relevant. It makes for data sets that pharmacy leaders would be hard-pressed to replicate, since they are more likely to be limited to getting codes and other information from their hospital’s revenue integrity department.

As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes, data validity and reliability is key to establishing quality measures in this new world of value-based care. ”To make sure that comparisons among providers and health plans are fair and that the results represent actual performance, it is critical to collect data in a careful, consistent way using standardized definitions and procedures,” the organization says.

At Agilum, we’re focused on building and refining a database capable of powering smart decision-making, so caregivers can provide the highest-quality care at the lowest cost.