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Big Data Sparks a Quest for Simplicity

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, December 18, 2012

This might seem like the smallest of peccadilloes to you and me, but to the public, it is one more reason to be fearful and suspicious of technology. If the pros can't agree on what to call something, who can blame them?

As technology finally makes its way into healthcare, the next great challenge is to simplify its use and even how we talk about it. The science behind medicine is an incredibly rich collection of ideas and language. But while we pour money into the science and the technology, we must also make it understandable to the beneficiaries, especially if they are to become part of the care team, which they must.

Simplifying is never easy. The EMR vs. EHR conundrum may remain unsolved, for example.

"The way I see it, the EMR is a subset of the EHR," says Rasu B. Shrestha, MD, MBA, vice president of medical information technology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"At UPMC, we have several EMRs (one for inpatient, one for outpatient, one for our affiliate physicians and yet another one for our oncologists). I generally refer to the individual systems as EMRs, and the composite of all of the EMRs, along with the systems associated with the EMRs (such as the imaging platforms, interoperability solutions, labs, registries, etc.), together can be referred to as the EHR."

Shrestha notes that this is similar to the definitions offered up by the ONC in January 2011, which in the midst of its pronouncements left the door open wide enough for the EMR term to live on for some time to come.

So simple, yet so complex.

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2 comments on "Big Data Sparks a Quest for Simplicity"


Phyllis Kritek (12/19/2012 at 9:41 AM)
Kudos for tackling this tough topic. Your interest in distinguishing EMR from EHR may be more complex than you think. It points to an ingrained health care cultures dilemma that warrants your reflection. While the discipline of medicine often assumes all data on the patient might best be referred to as the data of "medicine", the other health professions view medicine's data as just that, the contribution of one essential source but not the only one. The composite of data from all health care contributors, including the patient, creates the health care data set. IT professionals often see the dilemma but do not see that it is embedded in an old and fairly resistant mindset that our colleagues in medicine often continue to embrace. I wish you well in your challenge. I know it well. This disconnect, among others, has us all drowning in poorly integrated data...

Joe Nichols MD (12/18/2012 at 2:05 PM)
At last! A breath of sanity. While everyone is heading towards the "Big Data" promised land, someone is finally asking the key question. Is more data better. The current challenge is not that we don't have enough data, it's that we don't have enough data that is standard, clearly defined, complete, accurate and all the other parameters of data quality that most organization many organization ignore. My experience in looking at multiple data from multiple entities is that better data quality is far more valuable that more bad data.