The Truven Health Blog

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Using Data: Turning Information into Action

By Truven Staff
Mike Taylor imageProfessionals within the health care system are ‘awash’ in data, but that does not necessarily translate into actionable information.  As chief medical officer at Truven Health Analytics, I see this disconnect at all levels. Doctors using electronic medical records (EMRs) still have difficulty understanding the complete risk profile of their patients. Seemingly easy questions like: which of my patients need help to quit smoking? , or which of my patients with diabetes are not at goal for blood pressure? EMRs are good data collection tools, but may not always be effective in turning data into actionable information.
Employers are facing similar difficulties in their role of paying for health care for their employees. Health reform is a reality, and 2014 will be a year of major change and disruption. Employers are struggling to understand how they should use their health cost data to make good decisions about offering exchanges in place of traditional insurance for their employees. They need to know how employees can make better decisions about the best medical coverage plan for their families.
EMRs and databases seem to offer the hope of data-driven solutions, but having the data is not enough.  EMRs are useful tools, and are helpful in tracking a patient’s medical care. However, EMRs are not the best solution to understand the population for which a physician is caring.  Cost reports will not be up to the task in helping an employer understand which insurance products to offer their employees. Hospitals and health systems need help in determining how to succeed with new payment models that completely change their business strategy.

Answering these important healthcare questions requires more than having the data; answers require a deep understanding of content and context of the data, and thoughtful and complete analysis of the data. At Truven Health Analytics, this is the role we play as we help our clients make important decisions. With new models of health care payment such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), bundled payment and risk contracting, employers, hospitals and health systems have a greater need than ever to understand what the data are telling them.  “Big Data” is not just a new buzzword—it is a necessary source of new data needed throughout all parts of the health system.

Michael L Taylor, MD FACP
Chief Medical Officer