Data, Data Everywhere - But is It Accessible and Useful For Delivering Patient Care?

By Bruce Leidal, CIO, Carestream Health

Bruce Leidal, CIO, Carestream Health

The healthcare industry, like other industries, has massive amounts of data in archives—but collecting information about a specific patient is not easy because of the multiple procedures and imaging exams that result in many types of data associated with a patient. There is an ongoing mandate to equip healthcare providers with a holistic view of the patient. And that requires using multiple technologies to identify, collect, store and make data accessible on demand.

Radiology has the benefit of DICOM standards that assign patient and modality information to each image in an industry standard manner. Many other “ologies” contain proprietary structured data that does not use any type of industry standard for identification. Currently non-radiology data is often stored in proprietary systems that are not accessible outside an individual department or office.

The first step to a comprehensive patient record is for all the data being stored (radiology, endoscopy, pathology, cardiology, dermatology, lab results and other forms of imaging data) to be linked via an industry standard. This would allow the consolidation of information into a vendor-neutral archive (VNA), which can provide a central method for access. Then each piece of data in each system (lab test, CT study, photograph of cancerous mole) will need “header information” that identifies the type of data and patient ID.

This is the basis for linking individual studies to a specific patient. Suppliers may then develop technologies that interface with each system on a VNA (or other backbone) and use the latest interoperability standards to identify and aggregate data from disparate systems to create a holistic view of the patient. This data can be used by physicians to make improved diagnostic and treatment decisions based on the patient’s history—and not just the latest procedure.

 This technology-based approach not only enables a more holistic view of the patient but also avoids the need for expensive data migration from multiple departmental systems to a new platform. It can also assist with assimilating patient data that is generated from diverse and unassociated providers such as diagnostic and treatment events at physicians’ offices, urgent care centers, an ER visit while traveling, studies performed at imaging centers, and surgical or other procedures conducted at one or more hospitals/clinics. There is an urgent need create a unique ID for each patient, gather this data, and then associate all medical activities with the patient—regardless of where the diagnosis or treatment may have been performed.

While aggregating data for each patient remains challenging, the good news is that advanced data sharing technologies make radiology reports, imaging studies and other data readily accessible to physicians on mobile devices. Physicians can now view patient data in their offices or while making rounds at a hospital. This allows physicians to make more responsive diagnostic and treatment decisions.

Patients are also being empowered to manage their own medical records. Healthcare providers now offer secure webbased portals that allow patients to download, store and share their medical information with specialists of their choice. This allows patients to play a more active role in their own care. The healthcare industry is striving to find ways to present a more holistic view of the patient—and to make that diagnostic information more readily accessible to both physicians and patients. The key cornerstone is creating a comprehensive patient record that compiles data from multiple departments and providers. Fortunately healthcare technology companies and healthcare providers are now starting to work together to achieve this goal. Physicians can now view patient data in their offices or while making rounds at a hospital. This allows physicians to make more responsive diagnostic and treatment decisions “.