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Healthcare Execs' Top Data-Related Challenges in Performing Analytics

Analysis  |  By Jonathan Bees  
   December 12, 2019

A new HealthLeaders Intelligence Report reveals what healthcare executives say are their top difficulties in the use of data analytics.

According to healthcare leaders in the November/December 2019 HeathLeaders Intelligence Report, Investing For the Future: Analytics, AI, and ROI, the top two data-related challenges in performing analytics are integrating internal clinical and financial data (50%) and integrating external clinical and financial data (46%).

In each case, providers must contend with the complex task of merging two unique data streams. Whether those data streams are internal or external appears not to matter—while conventional wisdom says that external data may be more challenging to work with, the survey results suggest both data types are relatively equal.

Notably, dealing with the long-standing problem of establishing/improving EHR interoperability (43%) places third on the list, the same position and response percentage as in our previous analytics survey in September 2017. This demonstrates some of the difficulty this challenge poses for healthcare providers.

At only 3% of respondents, the response for ethical concerns regarding the use of patient genetic data suggests that this particular challenge is off the radar for nearly all respondents. Of course, some of this can be explained by the low overall response rate for using patient genetic data (7%) when conducting patient-related data analytics.

Todd Stewart, MD, vice president of clinical integrated solutions and clinical informatics at Mercy Technology Services, the IT division of St. Louis–based Mercy, an integrated health system that includes more than 40 hospitals, 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, and more than 45,000 employees, points out a more fundamental ethical concern, and that is with regard to the use of patient data in general.

"As an industry, we currently don't ingest a whole lot of genetic data for analytics," says Stewart. "But I would broaden this issue to include ethical concerns for using patient data of any kind, both internally and externally. At Mercy, we have a great concern about this topic, to the point that we actually have a task force that's been working on it for over a year and a half."

"The question is, how do we ensure the ethical use of patient data, whether it's for internal or external uses? Our mission leaders are working directly with our data management and technical people on this, and it's been an excellent interaction between those groups. Being a religious organization, we need to be especially cognizant of those ethical and religious requirements. So, it goes beyond the use of genetic data because there are substantial ethical concerns about data in general," he says.

To download the full November/December 2019 HealthLeaders Intelligence Report, click here.

Jonathan Bees is a research analyst for HealthLeaders.

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