Health information technology continues to change the way physicians and other health care providers view the world. Most ob-gyns now in practice were trained to view health care through the lens of science: Create a hypothesis, test it against data, revise the hypothesis, retest, and repeat.
“Health information technology has given us a new paradigm,” said American Medical Association President Robert M. Wah, MD, FACOG, a reproductive endocrinologist and ob-gyn in McLean, VA. “In the new paradigm of big data and analytics, the data will begin to speak to us in ways that we would never have thought to ask. Take the association between high FICO scores and compliance with health care recommendations. It makes intuitive sense that someone who is highly responsible in financial matters is probably just as responsible in following physician recommendations. But no one would have thought to offer that as testable hypothesis. Patterns and associations in the data itself made the connection for us to see. Retail is far ahead of medicine when it comes to merging data from multiple sources and using it to make accurate predictions about human behaviors and outcomes.”
Dr. Wah delivered this year’s Hale Lecture, “Improving Women’s Healthcare with Organized Medicine and Technology,” during Saturday morning’s Presidential Program. As physician practices move into stage 2 of Meaningful Use, the highly anticipated data tools and population health analytics are beginning to emerge.
The widespread adoption of electronic health records and growing interoperability of different EHRs transforms health care data from isolated siloes to an enormous pool. The concept, he said, is that all practitioners will contribute data to the common pool and all will extract useful information and trends based on more complete and more accurate data than can be collected and analyzed using paper records.
“Everybody in medicine will make better decisions because they have better information,” he said. “It is about delivering the right information to the right person at the right time to improve the right outcome.”
The problem is that while the benefits of health information technology are beginning to emerge, so are the pitfalls, Dr. Wah said.
Fifty-two percent of medical practices are expected to fail stage 2 requirements for Meaningful Use and incur financial penalties. Dr. Wah said that any time more than half of practices fail a new set of regulatory requirements, those requirements need to be adjusted to the reality of daily practice. The AMA is having a degree of success in convincing regulators to modify Meaningful Use rules, Dr. Wah said, but practitioners must also modify their practice and business models.
“The electronic health record and Meaningful Use are intended to improve health care and patient outcomes, and we all agree with that goal,” he said. “But Meaningful Use has become an administrative system, not a health improvement system. We are not using that tool to provide better care for our patients. We use it to achieve regulatory compliance and checking off boxes. There is a maturing process in big data and analytics that we must recognize. It is just as important for us to adjust our workflow and business processes.”