Data Quality Trends in Healthcare & Why Complete Clinical Data Is So Important
Clinicians know the struggle. They’re seeing new patients and must decide on the best treatment option with mere bits and pieces of what should have been a complete medical history. But why is it that finding all of the clinical information with the best possible data quality is so challenging, when gaps in clinical data can have profound adverse consequences?
Let’s face it, at this point clinicians are used to incomplete hospital reports, missing lab data, and nowhere-to-be-found procedure notes. How can a clinician assess a patient properly and make adequate medical recommendations based on mere fragments of a patient’s chart?
Truth be told, the waters are getting rough out there — for physicians and clinical staff alike. With continuously increasing demands on the job, an overwhelming amount of administrative work, and significant staffing shortages, today the healthcare environment is encountering more challenges than ever before.
A lack of data and the quality of the data that’s available are among the many challenges impacting the healthcare systems.
It’s important to address the data availability and quality challenges because patient health and safety depend on it. Patients depend on you and your health system to meet and overcome these challenges.
Let’s learn more about the clinical data challenge facing all providers and assess where things stand now.
The Current Status of Data Quality
The good news is that, despite the many roadblocks that are in place today, organizations are moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction, aiming to improve the access to clinical records and advancing data quality.
The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 and the resulting Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) from 2022 state that records must be exchanged electronically — seeking to eliminate the many roadblocks hindering the exchange of medical records and to bridge the gaps that are present today in having a comprehensive clinical understanding of each patient, to ultimately improve the quality of care provided.
While the foundation has been laid, many practitioners are reluctant to exchange records, nonetheless. Why? Privacy concerns, safety regulations, and HIPAA requirements are plaguing providers nationwide, raising eyebrows about sharing clinical data in a safe fashion.¹
In fact, a whopping 31% of organizations feel uneasy about exchanging records while trying to abide by regulations and maneuvering safety issues.¹
As a result, practices have learned to form alliances and exchange records with a trusted few. Even when data exchange happens, only 2% of healthcare executives state that the clinical data they receive is either perfect or near-perfect.¹
What does that mean for the remaining 98%?
It means that more often than not the data being retrieved when exchanging records is of poor quality and limited usefulness — which is frustrating for clinicians and patients.
How Does Your EHR Fit in With the Issue of Data Quality?
Medical providers heavily rely on the clinical data stored in the electronic health record (EHR). That’s why it’s key for your organization to utilize a reliable EHR to help manage your data. Unfortunately, EHRs only go so far and don’t solve the problem entirely.
EHRs enable a health system to manage its own patient data. An EHR is where facilities and outside “owned” and “partnered” providers are connected physically or are contractually bound together. In some relatively rare cases, EMRs can facilitate the process of obtaining clinical data from practices that are part of and agree to share with those having the same vendor.
In the vast majority of cases, finding and exchanging medical records with organizations outside of your network is a whole lot trickier — and even impossible.
In fact, it’s a tedious, overwhelming, and exhausting process and more often than not, it doesn’t work.
In most cases, today the patient fills out and signs a record release form and you begin requesting records via fax. The first time, the second time, and a third time. You’re reaching out to your patient’s cardiologist, endocrinologist, and primary care provider. You do it again and again.
The list of what is necessary to do for each potential clinical data source is long. Each different practice where a patient has been treated requires that you keep faxing forms, following up via phone calls, and checking piles of paperwork day in and day out for coveted records that may or may not come.
If you do receive records, your initial joy is dampened the instant you start looking through your records:
- You’re missing years of clinical data
- The procedure notes you were hoping to obtain are missing
- The other office only faxed some lab results
- You’re missing significant diagnoses in the patient’s medical history required by your patient’s insurance to cover his prescription
- Data is duplicated, over and over. The sheer volume is overwhelming but nonetheless, you must try to find what is useful and what’s not.
- You’re wasting crucial time weaving out data you don’t need instead of spending quality time caring for your patients.
- The patient received treatment from yet other additional facilities where data exists, so the process starts from square one with the newly discovered additional treatment provider.
When asked about data quality, healthcare executives indicate that only 45% of clinical data obtained was reasonably useful.¹
That’s because it’s not enough to just retrieve medical records. Your ability to search patient data and extract what you need in a timely manner is of paramount importance.¹
Your EHR, as the primary way to manage clinical data can be a key player in fostering interoperability.¹ Unfortunately, it usually only provides a limited opportunity to efficiently exchange much-needed records because it does so only with those connected directly to your local health system.¹
This, in turn, has a huge impact on the type of care you’re able to provide to your patients.
Why Do We Care So Much About Data Quality?
The importance of data quality is undeniable and hence, clinicians are in dire need of complete patient records. The most obvious reason is the quality of care you’re able to provide and the timeliness of treatment that’d be available to your patients.
But is there more to successfully exchanging medical records?
Here are four key factors that dictate a need for having a complete clinical history and good data quality:
(1) Optimal Patient Care
Your patients matter to you and you strive to provide them with good care, addressing their clinical needs in a timely fashion. Having all the necessary information, lab results, and diagnostic procedure notes is imperative for establishing a promising treatment plan.
(2) Staying Ahead of the Competition
Competition lurks around every corner in every single industry — and healthcare is no exception. If you want to stay ahead, provide quality care by having all the data you need to make informed decisions for your patients.
(3) Happy Patients, Loyal Patients
It’s quite simple — if your patients are happy with your services and feel heard, understood, and well-cared for, you’ve established a long-time relationship with them. But part of that bigger picture is creating and being a part of a team of care that includes the patient and all facilities and other providers, who have, are, and will participate in the treatment of the patient.
This requires exchanging medical records efficiently and striving to provide and receive all of the clinical information about patients to improve data quality.
(4) Retention of Staff
While doctors are usually busy seeing patients, much of the heavy lifting in exchanging and retrieving medical records is done by your clinical staff. Clinical staff will thank you for working with them to provide them with a long overdue tool to manage the exchange of clinical information.
In a healthcare setting with increasing staffing shortages, providing staff with the tools they need to do their jobs better and faster is a win-win situation — for you and your staff.
(5) Save Time… Because Time is Money
We all know, time is money. This rings especially true for a healthcare system that’s trying to do more with less with the dwindling numbers of personnel. You simply can’t afford to not invest in providing staff with a tool that quickly and efficiently finds all of the clinical information about each patient wherever a patient has received treatment.
Exchanging records needs to be easy and straightforward.
Particularly in regard to other workflow inefficiencies, time needs to be spent wisely, so you can secure revenue goals.
Ready to Get Ahead and Ensure You Work with Quality Data?
A profound 83% of health information exchanges are used in the context of patient care¹ — a good indicator of how valuable clinical information is to providers. Nothing is more important than to make all of the information about a patient available to treating physicians for optimal clinical decision-making and finding the best possible treatment plan.
Data quality, accuracy, and completeness are, therefore, much-needed components in achieving positive patient outcomes.
Get ahead of the game by ensuring you have all of the clinical information that is needed and are able to find and extract the best data for physicians to determine the treatment.
Vivlio Health can help you do just that. We offer a cloud-based solution to exchanging medical records that enables you to sort and extract to your liking — so you get exactly what you need.
Reach out to schedule a free demo and take a step forward towards better care.
State of Interoperability 2023, Report by Health Gorilla, Flexpa, and TheAcademy.