Trusting Healthcare Data

Posted on August 9, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 is generating data at an unprecedented rate. EHR software is becoming a large repository of healthcare data. Patient portals are starting to get data from patients. Labs are creating large amounts of data. Insurance companies have been collecting and playing with data for years. We’re surrounded by healthcare data. The question is: How do we make sure they trust the data?

Anyone who has worked with an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) realizes what a challenge it is to make sure that the day you pull in from multiple systems can be trusted. It’s really hard to trust data that’s coming from a system that you don’t understand or use regularly. When you use the system regularly you have an idea of how it captures the data and the strengths and weaknesses of the data. When the data is in the EDW, you don’t often know those details.

With all of this said, the EDW is a walk in the park when it comes to trusting the data when you compare it to data coming from an outside source. One example is from an HIE, from the patient, or even from some patient device. The irony is that doctors have trusted outside data for quite a while. They receive chart notes faxed over from a specialty doctor all of the time. They trust that note and act on the data presented in the note. So, we shouldn’t act like the idea of trusting outside data is impossible. We just have to learn from the existing sources of trusted data and see how we can make that data flow easily and in a trusted way.

A great example of this is with HL7 lab interfaces. For some reason those interfaces have reached a level of trust where doctors receive lab results and trust that the data in those results is correct. I think we’ll get there with other forms of data transfer from outside entities. It will just take time to build up those networks of trust.

Being able to trust the data that a doctor receives or that’s stored in their data warehouse is one of the most important things we can do. Without the trust in the data, the data has little to no value and won’t provide the benefit to healthcare that we need it to produce. Healthcare big data is happening, but we need trusted big data.