In a river of polluted medical data, let’s start a cleanup operation.

We swim in a river of information.

Every day, we sort through data as we figure out what’s best for patients and the health care organizations we lead. It allows us to figure out the best treatments for folks while giving us an organization-wide perspective.

At least it should.

Too often, the data we’re swimming through is polluted. The gunk could come from disparate systems not lining up or poorly communicating information from one to the other. On the other hand, it might simply be outdated, so many dead fish floating alongside us in the murky water.

So let’s clean up that river. Let’s dig into that mucky, fetid swamp. Here are the main pollutants organizations face, along with a path forward.

Pollutant one: Poor data processing for patients

When it comes to treating patients, the central contradiction providers face is this: Data means everything, but the systems for collecting and accessing it vary wildly. Electronic health records have been haphazardly implemented worldwide and also bring associated security risks, while old-fashioned paper files are limited to their time and place.

Or as Kasaw Adane, Mucheye Gizachew and Semalegne Kendie wrote in Risk management and Healthcare Policy back in 2019:

“Poor medical data processing systems are the key reasons for medical errors. Employing standardized data management systems reduces errors and associated sufferings. Therefore, using electronic tools in the healthcare institution ensures safe and efficient data management. Therefore, it is important to establish appropriate medical data management systems for efficient health care delivery.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Make the transition and swim in the pure, clear water.

The authors even suggest that “effective use of EHR improves the patient’s safety, trust, and their satisfaction on the health care system appeared orienting patients towards a health-related information sources.”

Unfortunately, the security risks mentioned above continue. And electronic records adoption has lagged around the globe. Physicians don’t always believe in the platforms or have the time or interest to learn them. Moreover, a whole legal framework exists for understanding and grappling with these records.

Finally, even if you have an extant electronic health records system, it may not be sufficiently integrated into your organization. Fixing problems and setting goals depends on using that information correctly. And that leads us to our second pollutant.

Pollutant two: Feeding big data the right information

Electronic records serve individual patients. But if those records can be brought together with hundreds, thousands or millions of other patients’ records, you have a truly game-changing medical breakthrough.

Why? Think of it this way. Other patients’ experiences can inform the treatment of any individual. And other overall pictures can help institutions figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“Big data analytics has enabled doctors to access a holistic view of a patient’s health history,” writes Dmytro Spilka for Smart Data Collective. “Additionally, patients may find themselves more empowered with information and are taking charge of their personal health through big data insights.

“This trend has enabled doctors to design accurate intervention programs to treat diseases long before they can progress to more complex advanced stages that can be expensive and difficult to treat. Big data analytics is actively shifting healthcare delivery paradigms away from a reactive approach and more to a preventative approach.”

Sean Parker, writing for the same publication, notes that healthcare organizations can become more competitive by crunching numbers and communicating better.

The overall result? More profits.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re swimming through peaceful waters. Oh no. You will be faced with data entry and collection problems across the board. You will be faced with outdated computer systems and IT infrastructure resistant to the kind of innovations necessary.

“Inefficient data entry and collection practices are a significant source of waste among care providers and healthcare organizations,” Parker writes. “Advanced data collection technologies enable providers to automate many of these redundant practices. This will result in savings for healthcare organizations.”

Cleaning the river for everyone

Making sure that the data we all swim through works will take a collective effort.

That’s why a firm like Med Law Advisory Partners exists, to help you figure out your system pitfalls and how to clean your stream or river or ocean to near transparency.

As Alicia Davis, RN, LNCC, the founder and CEO of Med Law, puts it:

“We can stay ‘downstream’ in reactive mode, monitoring the increase in severity of patient harm events and repeatedly defending the same claims as we watch claim values continue to rise. Or, through innovation, problem-solving and creatively managing our resources, we might have the opportunity to improve ‘the way we’ve always done it’ – with the goal of driving down the cost of care delivery, building more efficient systems, increasing team member satisfaction, and, ultimately, having safer, healthier patients and communities.”

Together, we can make our processes and data work for us the right way. We can ensure that providers and caregivers have modern and efficient systems and that the information they collect helps the patients and our organizations thrive.

Our patients and providers deserve no less.

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