Why unavailable data is a big problem in healthcare

If you’re a health system in the age of COVID-19 and navigating the increased emphasis on value-based care, it’s vital that you have access to the data inside your HCIS.

But even if you can access it — a difficult process, as we previously described — it’s equally important to recognize the extra efforts required to analyze that data and utilize it to build reports and identify opportunities to make interventions.

Delayed or poor decisions

Let’s use as an example Sugammadex, a newer anesthesia medication that helps patients begin breathing on their own again following surgery. Though it’s more expensive than the reversal agents historically used, proponents argue it’s more effective and leads to fewer patients being put back on a ventilator.

Without data to analyze its effectiveness, valuable time passes — say six, nine months — with no decision on whether to include the drug in the hospital’s formulary. Meanwhile, patients may require re-intubation or wait longer in the operating room before being moved to recovery. In hospital operating rooms, time is money, and events like these can quickly erode tight margins.

Alternatively, if Sugammadex is added to the formulary without any data to verify its effectiveness, pharmacy costs may increase substantially without any demonstrable corresponding benefit in patient outcomes or OR utilization.

A further example would be if the anesthesia department reported a reduction in the number of re-intubations of post-operative patients in recovery. Yet when pharmacy leaders look for proof in the data, it isn’t there, perhaps because the re-intubation procedure was never entered into the patient’s electronic health record. While it may have been written down somewhere, the procedure didn’t flow into the right location for actionable reporting.

Organizations often turn to traditional business intelligence tools for decision support on drugs.  But those require specialized training or IT requests to pull together data from multiple sources — all increasing the chances of miscommunication and highlighting an inability to capture real-time data.

Long-term payoffs

On the patient-care side, clinical relationships among the care team are strengthened with real-time, real-world data. With good data, providers can make clinical interventions much sooner and design care pathways much more confidently to benefit the patient.

Sometimes it’s about making a proactive decision today to yield benefits tomorrow. Patients may well see higher bills from drugs like Sugammadex, and that may indeed be difficult to reconcile. But those drugs may bring other benefits, such as:

  • Shortening the time the patient has to spend on a ventilator, which in turn reduces the chances of developing other complications
  • Avoiding re-intubation and longer length of stay
  • Lowering the risk of readmission and speeding time to discharge

All of these lead to better outcomes, which in turn leads to lower costs and improved quality, which is the primary goal to begin with.