Technology plays a part in almost every aspect of our daily lives.
The widespread use of computers and their various components have shaped the way we live and have largely impacted the way we conduct business and receive services, like health care.
Increasing attention to quality, outcomes and performance measurement within the health care field has heightened the need for tools and services to leverage data contained in information systems—for example Meaningful Use (incentives for best practices), Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care organizations—and provide meaningful information to help physicians determine the best way to deliver care.
That’s where the UC Center for Health Informatics comes into play.
Established in 2006, the center, which is part of the department of public health sciences and is partially supported by the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training (CCTST), serves as a home for adult health informatics research, training and expert services at UC. It is affiliated with a number of other departments and colleges at UC, as well as health care organizations around the region.
Mark Wess, MD, director of the center and professor of medicine at UC, says the center's primary focus is on the areas of health informatics dealing with clinical care, clinical research and public health but that a core service is supporting the data needs of researchers and other providers for adult care.
"The faculty and staff in the center are involved in improving the ways to collect, translate and communicate health data among providers and other invested parties and currently use data to analyze what has or is currently happening in health care,” he says. "However, the future is not about just understanding the current health state but eventually predicting health trends.”
Associate director Brett Harnett says this is known as "business intelligence.”
"With the business intelligence model, experts will use previous and present health data to institute predictive analytics, determining what needs to be done to enhance quality, efficiency and possibly cost. This is changing the way health care as we know it will be delivered,” he says.
The Next Steps ...
In order to set this into motion, health informatics experts must take existing data and place it into a different structure for analysis—a data warehouse. Coding the data and incorporating time dimension are also essential in determining outcomes.
The result: Data that can be viewed and manipulated to produce information, both historical and predictive.
"This has been done for years in other industries such as automotive and banking,” says Harnett, adding that the same sort of idea is used when fraudulent or suspicious activity is flagged on a credit card. "This could be used in health care to track H1N1 outbreaks, the demographics affected by a certain illness or over-the-counter medicine sales trends, leading to prospective information about the public health of an area.”
Wess says that this type of model and analysis will help both researchers and operations and adds that the center is currently coordinating efforts with UC Health and the "EPIC project”.
EPIC is the predominant electronic medical records (EMR) system being used by health care providers in the area. UC Health is migrating to the EPIC system over the next 18 months.
"Our center is wishing to align its tools and processes with UC Health to prevent duplication and provide better services,” Wess says. "We wish to be positioned to leverage the EPIC system and data to provide robust information.”
Harnett says with this in mind, experts can track probable health trends and outbreaks and essentially keep people healthy.
"The classic health care philosophy is built on fixing broken people and then relying on them to break again so that they can once again be fixed,” he says. "That’s not very cost-effective. The paradigm is shifting to put more emphasis on preventing illness and promoting wellness, which is why storing this data and then being able to do predictive analysis is so important.”
Harnett and Wess say that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that health informatics continues to grow and play a more important role in the health care industry locally, nationally and even globally.
"Already in 2011, the center has provided more data sets to researchers and providers than in all of 2010,” says Wess. "We hope to see the growth continue, and our team encourages additional requests.”
For more information, visit www.cctst.uc.edu.