Health IT Pulse

Nov 1 2012   3:00PM GMT

Push for clinical data analytics systems puts small providers in tough position

Ed Burns Ed Burns Profile: Ed Burns

electronic health records
hospital information systems
Meaningful use
small practice

There’s no doubt that big data promises to drive new payment models like accountable care organizations and their population management requirements. But health IT optimists are increasingly being accompanied by naysayers who feel that clinical data analytics may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Commentators suggest that analytics systems are currently more useful to business administrators than to clinicians, and surveys show that few medical facilities use big data in direct patient care.

But reality hasn’t stopped many in the industry from proceeding full-steam ahead toward a more analytic future. While boosting big data capabilities certainly could bolster decision-making process, some are now concerned that the drive toward analytics could be leaving many doctors behind.

Speaking at the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium, Chris Kryder, CEO of data management company D2Hawkeye, said that the increasing focus on data in health care may be driving some doctors to give up their own practices and move to hospital settings, where most of the heavy lifting of implementing an EHR or data analytics system is done by the IT staff.

“It scares a lot of doctors, and they can’t understand the 130 pages of regulations just for meaningful use alone,” Kryder said. “And what happens is it drives them to hospitals. There’s certainly an impact based upon the desire to aggregate data and turn it into real information.”

This impact may be a hard pill to swallow for the health care system, particularly because, as Kryder said, the promise associated with data analytics is, at least for the moment, “way, way, way greater than the reality.”

So why is the industry aggressively pursuing technology that may have only a hypothetical benefit but carries a very real and immediate downside? It could be that, as Kryder mentioned, the promise of analytics is great. We’ve all heard proponents talk about the potential benefits of analytics: improved population health, personalized care, stronger decision support.

These certainly are attractive benefits, particularly for a health care industry that continues to struggle with high costs and uneven treatment outcomes. We can only hope that enough providers are able to hang in there and keep their practices in tact until such time as the industry’s thought leaders figure out how to make analytics systems more immediately beneficial – and affordable – to the little guys.

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