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A Tech Boost to the EBM Boom

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, April 26, 2011
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Editor's note: This story was originally published in the April issue of HealthLeaders Magazine

Joel Diamond, MD, a physician at Handelsman Family Practice in Pittsburgh, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the shortcomings of evidence-based medicine as it is practiced today.

“There’s a universal thought among competent, decent physicians [about] most of the evidence-based standards that have been set forth: The bar has been set embarrassingly low. And the fact that we can barely achieve such low standards is … bad for the quality of healthcare,” says Diamond, who is also the CMO for dbMotion, an interoperability software company in Pittsburgh.

“The reason for that is that the bar has been set based on what we’re able to measure … And since we can measure only a few things right now, we’re getting exactly what we deserve.”

Which isn’t a lot.

“Evidence-based medicine is probably still only about 20% to 25% of the real practice of medicine,” says G. Daniel Martich, MD, the CMIO at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “There isn’t evidence for every disease process and every eventuality that a patient may have.”

But many proponents of EBM say that advancing technology can help the industry do a better job of implementing best clinical practices.

The solution to one major hurdle to the practice of EBM—the sheer volume of data and the length of time it takes for new research to become standard practice—is to move away from text-based research and data and fully harness the power of electronic databases.

But because patient care is increasingly delivered by multiple clinicians in outpatient settings, gathering that data in one place is a challenge. 

“There’s data scattered all over the place,” says Diamond. “We need to have a good source of data—EMRs—and then we have to have a good source to be able to take all this data and aggregate it. That’s the only way we can start applying the normal process that every other industry in the world applies to improving quality.”

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