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Healthcare’s Not Good At Mining Health Data

Posted on January 13, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was really blown away by this quote from an interview with Rebecca Quammen.

The buzz around data analytics promotes the need for data scientists and data analysts as among the most sought-after roles, and that is problematic in and of itself. It’s creating a huge demand, but it’s also a demand that many healthcare organizations don’t know how to deal with right now. I see the buzz around data analytics increasing the pressure to “do something” with data, but many organizations across the nation, both large and small and in every setting of care, simply don’t have the foundational knowledge to manage the data to their benefit, and to know the database structure and how to get it the data out and what the data tells them when they get it. We are not an industry historically good at mining good, rich data out of products and doing something meaningful with it. We do traditional reporting and we may do a little bit of historical reporting, but we’re not good at looking at data to predict and promote and to work toward the future, or to see trends and do analysis across the organization.

Rebecca nailed this one on the head. I’ve seen a bunch of organizations go running towards healthcare informatics with no idea of what they wanted to accomplish or any sort of methodology for how they’re going to analyze the data to find useful insights. It kind of reminds me of the herd mentality that happens at conferences. If any sort of crowd starts to build at a conference, then the crowd quickly grows exponentially as people think that something interesting must be going on. The same seems to happen as healthcare organizations have run towards data analytics.

While I think there’s so much potential in health data analytics, I think that most organizations are afraid to fail. The culture in healthcare is “do no harm.” There are some very good reasons for this and some real fears when it comes to medical liability. There’s a lot more at stake when using data in healthcare than say Netflix trying to predict which shows you might be interested in watching. If Netflix gets it wrong, you just keep scrolling after some minor frustration which you quickly forget. In healthcare, if we get it wrong, people can die or be harmed in some major way.

I understand why this healthcare culture exists, but I also think that inactivity is killing as many or more people than would be damaged by our data mistakes. It’s a challenging balance. However, it’s a balance that we must figure out. We need to enable more innovation and thoughtful experimentation into how we can better use health data. Yes, I’m talking beyond the traditional reporting and historical reporting which doesn’t move the needle on care. I’m talking using data to really impact care. That’s a brave place to be, but I applaud all of those brave people who are exploring this new world.

Is It a Hot or Cold Hospital EHR Buying Market?

Posted on August 12, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent blog post by Erik Bermudez, he asks the question about whether the Hospital EMR market is heating up or cooling down. He suggests that it’s heating up and offers this commentary as proof:

In 2015, KLAS validated that over 490 acute care hospitals were involved in an EMR contract decision of some kind, which represents an increase of almost 200% over 2014. That’s nearly 10% of the entire US hospital market making an EMR decision in 2015 alone.

We’ll see if this trend continues. No doubt there was a cooling off of the market as meaningful use matured in 2014. Given that cooling off period, it’s not really a surprise that it would start to heat up.

Eric also points out that buzzwords like population health and interoperability are dominating the conversation as opposed to EHR. I’d in the healthcare analytics buzzword to that list. These are indeed hot topics, but what’s interesting is that each of these topics really requires an EHR. You’re not likely to buy a healthcare analytics system if you don’t have an EHR. You need the data to be electronic (presumably in an EHR) to do the analytics (yes, I know there are edge cases where you don’t).

Given this dependency on EHR, we shouldn’t be surprised that many organizations are making an EMR decision. No doubt some healthcare organizations have an EMR that doesn’t support the advanced population health, interoperability and analytics initiatives they’d like to do. No doubt these advanced efforts are going to drive adoption of new EHR vendors that can support these efforts.

What do you think? Is the EHR buying market hot or cold? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Population Health Management: Lessons Learned

Posted on August 8, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Population Health Management Lessons Learned

I’m always on the lookout for best practices and insights that will help readers. This slide from the #HFSummit was a great look into insights into population health management. In some ways population health management is an old area, but with technology and new data sets it is also a very quickly evolving area. In case you can’t see the picture above, here are the lessons learned from population health management:

  • Segment high-risk populations
  • Harness advanced analytics
  • Use patient registries and medical homes
  • “No outcome, no income”
  • Go upstream
  • Eat your own cooking
  • Focus on the whole population
  • Meet people in their lives
  • Emphasize wellness and prevention
  • Think outside the box
  • Leverage technology
  • Partner, partner, partner

I think many of these are obvious and generic. However, a few of them are likely foreign to many healthcare organizations. As you look through the list, don’t compare yourself to other organizations. Instead, focus on where you’re at and where you want to be. We have too much comparing in hospitals and health systems and not enough leaders that are working to be the best they can be. We all don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we also shouldn’t just follow like minions with no thought as to where we’re going.

Are Your Health Data Efforts a Foundation for the Future?

Posted on June 10, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently was talking with Jonathan Sheldon from Oracle and I was inspired by the idea that today’s data projects could be the essential foundation for future healthcare analytics and care that form what we now call Precision Medicine. Chew on that idea for a minute. There’s a lot of power in the idea of building blocks that open up new avenues for innovation.

How many healthcare ideas have been shot down because “that’s impossible”? Lots of them. Why are so many of these things “impossible”? They’re impossible because there are usually 10-15 things that need to be accomplished to be able to make the impossible possible.

Take healthcare analytics as an example. I once worked with a clinician to do a study on obesity in our patient population. As we started to put together the study it required us to pull all of the charts for patients whose BMI was over a certain level. Since we were on an EHR, I ran the report and the clinician researching the study easily had a list of every patient that met her criteria. Imagine trying to do that study before EHR. Someone would have had to manually go through thousands of paper charts to identify which ones met the criteria. No doubt that study would have been met with the complaint “That’s impossible.” (Remember that too expensive or time consuming is considered impossible for most organizations.)

What I just described was a super simple study. Now take that same concept and apply it beyond studies into things like real time analytics displayed to the provider at the point of care. How do you do that in a paper chart world? That’s right. You don’t even think about it because it’s impossible.

Sometimes we have to take a step back and imagine the building blocks that will be necessary for future innovation. Clean, trusted data is a good foundational building block for that innovation. The future of healthcare is going to be built on the back of health data. Your ability to trust your data is going to be an essential step to ensuring your organization can do the “impossible”.

Healthcare Analytics Biggest Competitor – Excel

Posted on March 16, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This tweet highlighted an interesting observation I had after experiencing so many healthcare analytics pitches going into and at HIMSS. I’ll set aside the email comment for now (email is still very powerful if done right) and instead focus on Excel. Here’s what I discovered about healthcare analytics:

Excel is a healthcare analytics company’s biggest competitor.

It’s crazy to think about, but it’s true. When a healthcare organization is evaluating healthcare analytics platform the “legacy system” that they’re usually trying to replace is Excel. I can’t tell you how many times I heard analytics vendors say that “Hospital A was doing all of this previously on a bunch of Excel spreadsheets.” If you work at a hospital, you know that you have your own garden of Excel spreadsheets that are used to run your healthcare organization as well.

When you think about the features of Excel, it’s no wonder why it’s so popular in healthcare and why it’s a challenging competitor for most healthcare organizations. First, it’s free. Ok, it’s not technically free, but every healthcare organization has to buy it for a lot of reasons so that cost is already in their standard budget. Second, every computer in the organization has a copy of Excel on it. Third, the majority of people in healthcare are familiar with how to use Excel. Since we love to talk about healthcare IT usability, Excel is extremely usable. Fourth, Excel is surprisingly powerful. I know many healthcare analytics organizations could argue its limitations, but Excel is more powerful than most people realize.

That’s not to say that Excel doesn’t have its weaknesses. I’m sure that most organizations have experienced time wasted trying to figure out which Excel file has the accurate data or is the most up to date. No doubt you’ve experienced the multiple copy problem where 2 people are editing the same file and now you have 2 versions of the same file that need to be merged. Document management software has helped with this situation in many regards as it locks the file when someone starts to edit it and things like that. However, it’s still often a problem.

Another problem with Excel as compared with a true analytics platform is when you want to go in and slice and dice the data. What’s possible with a true analytics platform is so much more powerful when you want to really dive in and chop up the data in unique ways.

While possible in Excel, most uses of Excel are backwards facing data analysis and tracking. You can do some near real-time data analysis in Excel, but newer analytics platforms do a much better job of real time analytics using the latest data.

Of course, the biggest problem long term with Excel is that it can’t scale. Once you reach a certain amount of data points or a certain amount of complexity in the data, Excel falls on its face. However, most healthcare organizations are still working on small data, so Excel’s worked fine.

I’m sure there are many more issues. Hopefully some analytics vendors will chime in with more examples in the comments or on their own blogs. However, it’s worth acknowledging that for many organizations it’s really hard for them to find a healthcare analytics solutions that’s so much better than Excel. Plus, many of these expensive analytics solutions fail when it comes to some of the things that makes Excel great (ie. Free, Usable, Ubiquitous).

EHR, What’s Next?

Posted on February 1, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube video recording of my chat with Dana Sellers:

EHR Whats Next with Dana Sellers

With the announcement that meaningful use is going to be replaced (Not to be confused with meaningful use is dead like many claimed.) along with a maturing of the EHR market, I thought it might be time to ask the question, EHR, what’s next? This discussion should include how to better leverage your current EHR investment, but also look at what other investments organizations should be making to get the most out of everything that’s happening in healthcare IT. On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET (8:30 AM PT), I’ll be sitting down with Dana Sellers, CEO of Encore, A Quintiles Company to talk over what’s next for EHR and healthcare IT.

You can join my live conversation with Dana Sellers and even add your own comments to the discussion or ask Dana questions. All you need to do to watch live is visit this blog post on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET (8:30 AM PT) and watch the video embed at the bottom of the post or you can subscribe to the blab directly. We’ll be doing a more formal interview for the first 30 minutes and then open up the Blab to others who want to add to the conversation or ask us questions. The conversation will be recorded as well and available on this post after the interview.

With an amazing depth of experience, Dana’s been through a wide variety of healthcare IT cycles. I can’t wait to hear Dana’s thoughts on what’s going to happen with meaningful use, how can healthcare organizations better leverage their EHR investment, where are we really seeing analytics and other buzzword worthy terms breaking through, and what other technologies are on the horizon that will improve healthcare? Please join us Thursday and share your experience as well.

If you’d like to see the archives of Healthcare Scene’s past interviews, you can find and subscribe to all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on YouTube.

Should Every Patient Have a Number of Health Scores?

Posted on September 4, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In today’s #HITsm chat, I saw an interesting tweet from Gus Gilbertson (@gusgilbertson) about incorporating various environmental scores into the healthcare analysis we do:


Which I retweeted with a question:

In another tweet (which I can’t seem to find), someone else suggested that every patient should have a health score as well. I think it’s interesting that Gus compared these scores to the FICO score that we each have. Would it make sense for every patient to have their own FICO like health score?

My question above was sincere: Would a score be enough to do any good?

My feeling is that the answer to that is no. Unless of course we were given a whole range of scores as opposed to one overall health score. For example, maybe we’re given a diabetes score and a cholesterol score and a heart disease score, etc. If we were actually treating a healthy patient and trying to keep them healthy, then having these scores could help a doctor focus on the things that were most at risk for a patient. Plus, the change in score could help the doctor tell a story to the patient which would hopefully encourage the patient to change some behaviors like eating right or exercise.

I’ve seen some related scoring in hospitals already. The Rothman index is one example. As I understand it, that index essentially scores a patient in the hospital on how they’re doing and if that patient’s condition is deteriorating. Could we apply that same principle to a patient’s health status? Even those patients who “feel” healthy?

What’s clear to me is that we have too much data that’s heading doctors way. We need to find some way to present this data and the change in data to the doctor so they can actually use that data for the patient’s benefit. Plus, the data might promote a patient to seek medical care earlier. No doubt all of these changes will transform how we think about medical care. I think that’s a very good thing!

Healthcare Analytics is Everything and Nothing

Posted on January 13, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Analytics has been the buzzed word ever since last year’s HIMSS. It’s been included in pretty much every healthcare IT company imaginable. I was talking to an EHR consulting company today and I asked if they were moving into some sort of analytics offering. As we discussed the idea further, we realized that they’re not really going into healthcare analytics specifically, but that many of the projects they see as the future of healthcare IT involve analytics.

As I think over this discussion, it’s easy for me to see how healthcare analytics is involved in everything, but that the term itself means nothing.

If I dive a little deeper into this subject it reminds me of a video interview I watched last night with a popular venture capitalist. At one point in the conversation he casually said, “Once again it goes back to the data. I guess it all goes back to the data, because we think data is at the core of the future of everything we’re investing in.”

While this comment didn’t necessarily apply to healthcare, it very could have been about healthcare. The future of healthcare is about the data. It’s about how an organization leverages data to improve the care they provide a patient. EHR was just the first step in making much of the healthcare data digital. However, this new wave of wearables and health sensors is bringing another form of data to healthcare. Genomics is bringing another wave of data to healthcare. Watson is reading through all the medical studies and making that data useful and actionable for a doctor.

It’s easy for me to say that the future of healthcare is going to be dependent on data. It’s at the core of everything that we will do. Going full circle, healthcare analytics is one way of describing how you take the data and make it useful. So, it makes sense that however you look at the future of healthcare IT, you probably have some sort of healthcare analytics involved in what you’re doing. It’s all about how you slice the data.

5 Year Projected Growth Rate for Healthcare Analytics Market

Posted on July 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

iHealthBeat recently reported some interesting data on the Healthcare Analytics market growth:

The market for health care analytics is projected to increase at a 25% compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2019,according to a new report from Research and Markets, Health IT Analytics reports (Bresnick,  Health IT Analytics, 7/24).

If anything, I’d suggest that this is a conservative growth rate for the Healthcare Analytics market. If you go into any hospital, health analytics is one of the only thing they’re spending new money on.

In the same article linked above they suggested these companies as the major players:

  • Inovalon
  • LexisNexis
  • McKesson
  • Oracle
  • Predixion
  • SAS
  • Truven Health Analytics
  • Verisk Health

I agree that these companies will be involved, but I’m more interested in the newer Health Analytics companies that are entering and going to enter the market. We’ll see how that plays out since it seems like pretty much every healthcare IT company is creating some sort of health analytics offering.

What are your hospital’s healthcare analytics plans?

Healthcare Analytics

Posted on February 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Each week, the #HITsm community does a Twitter chat. This week it was hosted by @ahier and was focused on the topics of analytics. It was good timing considering we’re going to be innundated with healthcare analytics discussions at HIMSS 2014. Here is a look at the questions asked during the chat:
T1: What true models for analytics and data driven healthcare actually exist?

T2: Who’s going to win the analytics market battle: EHR vendors or the analytics specialty vendors?

T3: Should certification for analytics and clinical data warehouses be included in meaningful use?

T4: What are the concerns and benefits around marrying clinical, claims, and consumer retail purchasing data?

You can find the full transcript of the chat here. For those not wanting to read the whole chat, here are some tweets of mine I think you’ll find interesting:

I think this gives you a pretty good view into what I think about healthcare analytics. I’d love to hear yours.