Three Barriers to Effectively Using Information Stored in EHRs

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media , October 6, 2009

There are some organizations that are already working through these obstacles, and the report "Transforming Healthcare through Secondary Use of Health Data," highlights the experiences of these five industry leaders:

  • Aetna, which gathers data from multiple sources to create comprehensive, personalized views of each of its members.
  • The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, which has developed evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke based on hospital data.
  • Geisinger Health System, which created a company called MedMining that de-identifies and licenses its data for healthcare research.
  • Partners HealthCare, which uses data from its EHR to identify trends in drug usage based on post-market drug surveillance.
  • WellPoint, which piloted an integrated health record for its members that demonstrates how claims data can be used to support the delivery of care.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 65% of health organizations expect their secondary data use to increase significantly within the next two years.
  • 90% of executives said the industry needs better guidelines about how health information can be used and shared.
  • 76% of executives said that national stewardship over, or responsibility for, the use of the health data should be regulated.
  • 59% of organizations using secondary data have seen quality improvement.
  • 42% of organizations using secondary data have achieved cost savings.

To truly achieve meaningful use, healthcare organizations will need to be able to move aggregated and non-aggregated data across the industry. In other industries those two elements are directly related, says Garrett, adding that if someone enters bad data, there are checks and balances in place to uncover the error. "As soon as healthcare delivery professionals personally experience what happens if they don't capture the right data, they will become that much more attentive to getting it right," he says.

Of course, providers will need to see the benefit to them on the backend before they'll devote the extra time and effort to capturing that clinically-rich data. That is why pilot studies will be a key element to moving the use of secondary data forward, says Garrett.

"If you see personal benefit, it takes on relevance and moves this off of the ‘that is great idea' quadrant."

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Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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