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Using Data to Deliver Better Patient-Driven Experiences and Outcomes

Clark WootenMarch 18, 2019

Today, there is no question data and insights drive most business decisions about where to invest, how to engage and who to engage. With healthcare data being the most intimate data about consumers, the critical challenge for healthcare organizations is in finding the balance between the benefits of using data and the ethical use of that data. When done well, organizations leverage consumer and social determinants of health data to improve the patient experience. But before tackling the question of data-use balance, many must first overcome funding and talent shortages and uncertainty with which data sources to trust.

A September 2018 HIMSS Media research report, Unlocking a Better Patient Experience with Social Determinants of Health Data*, shows two-thirds of survey respondents currently use or want to access third-party consumer data tied to social determinants of health (SDoH) to deliver better patient experiences. These determinants are based on a person’s living and working conditions from birth through old age.

Other key research findings show:

Hospitals using SDoH-associated data analytics are often hampered by siloed data sources and intangible ROI.

  • A third of respondents struggle with transitioning to value-based care, which empowers consumers in a way the former fee-for-service model did not.
  • The most anticipated outcomes from these deeper data dives is improved patient satisfaction, reduced readmission rates and greater patient engagement.
  • To realize those goals, however, many must resolve common issues, including budget constraints, a talent shortage and questionable data sources.

It is imperative as you invest in third-party data, you vet a company’s ethics, privacy and compliance policies. You want to make sure you are working with companies that understand all the regulatory and compliance needs, and partner with you to recognize the greatest value.

Improving public health, one patient at a time

More than half (58 percent) of those surveyed are interested in integrating consumer and lifestyle data, often culled from censuses or business applications, with electronic health records. Their top three goals cited were to:

  • improve community health needs assessments (61 percent)
  • improve chronic disease management (56 percent)
  • better understand what motivates patients (47 percent)

Those [goals] are all important to achieve, but if you don’t understand how a patient is going to behave or what motivates them to act, the ability to recognize improvements in chronic care management and assessing the needs of your community diminishes.

On a more strategic level, a majority of those surveyed hope leveraging data on SDoH will:

  • increase patient satisfaction (64 percent)
  • improve patient engagement (61 percent)
  • reduce readmission rates (59 percent)
  • provide better care coordination across the care continuum (51 percent)

To realize such outcomes, however, many organizations must first confront common obstacles.

Barriers to a data-driven approach to improvements

According to a recent HIMSS Media survey, the biggest barriers hospitals and healthcare systems currently face with acquiring and handling third-party consumer and health data include:

  • Siloed data sources (46 percent)
  • Difficulty measuring ROI (43 percent)
  • Transitioning to value-based care (32 percent)
  • Lack of talent/skills sets to support analytics needs (31 percent)

These difficulties, particularly ethically and securely accessing protected data, are not unique to healthcare. However, the legal and regulatory controls required around healthcare data can make even interdepartmental data-sharing more difficult.

That said, 42 percent of respondents said they already use third-party consumer and lifestyle data on social determinants of health. Another 10 percent have access to such data but haven’t used it – possibly because they are just starting to invest in the resources needed to realize the value. Instead, they are partnering with outside vendors that can break down those data siloes, integrate SDoH data into their EHR, provide analytics and even help measure ROI.

Additionally, the study indicates a third of healthcare organizations struggle with adopting value-based care. This suggests these healthcare leaders may still grapple with how to interact with today’s more empowered consumers. Patients now have unprecedented access to information and are becoming more educated and discerning in the way they approach a caregiver.

A needed cultural shift

It is important organizations do their homework before collecting third-party data. It requires heightened awareness of security and privacy issues tied to HIPAA and other regulations. It also likely requires a new way of thinking about using data to drive better patient-driven experiences and outcomes. Understand that there is a cultural shift required to achieve such an unprecedented transformation. The technology is there; it’s the processes and people that need to align with that technology to realize its true value.

View the corresponding infographic, The Power of Consumer and Lifestyle Data in Healthcare, to learn more.

*Unlocking a Better Patience Experience with Social Determinants of Health Data, HIMSS Media Research Report, sponsored by Acxiom, September 2018. This survey was conducted online among 100 qualified hospital and healthcare organization IT, executive and clinical business leaders. Acxiom was not identified as the sponsor.