The Evolving Struggle of Data Integration

Somya Gulati
Fri 03 June 2016

Blog - 3rd-02

Think about how far we’ve come in the last twenty years. From whistling to hail a cab to Uber-ing it with a touch on our smartphones. From DOS interface computers to Macintosh. From paper mail to instant messaging. I think that there has been tremendous amount of evolvement in all the industries and especially in the field of Data Integration.  Let’s look at the Finance Industry for an example. Data Integration has significantly enhanced the smoothness in transactions over the years and as of today, Integrated Data is a strategic component of all decision making and of planning.

We know that the concept of data integration is not a new one. Enterprise organizations have been using data integration to maximize key business drivers for well over two decades. But how far have we come when we talk about Data Integration in the most important industry-  health care?

Back in time, data integration software was just emerging and the sources for data were limited. And today, Exactly the Same! Even back then, daily loads became a problem for most companies. Because of the limitations of the early data integration software, much of the work was custom coded, without documentation, and no central management. If these legacy data integration technologies had grave challenges back then, consider how much more obsolete they are in today’s modern and big data world.

So my question is: isn’t it time for the health care Data integration to evolve too? Aren’t we all just exhausted with dealing with the challenges which now seem endless?

What is the challenge for most health systems? I believe it is the ability to integrate disparate systems such as electronic health records (EHR) and a system to collect patient information after discharge. Integration as well as aggregation and harmonisation of data to make it available to multiple users are daunting tasks for overworked healthcare information technology (IT) staffs.

The healthcare industry perpetually struggles with establishing more Interoperable capacity

As of today most health organisations face issues in healthcare data integration and two-way interoperability due to siloed approach of healthcare providers in maintaining clinical, claims, laboratory, and pharmacy data with every provider maintaining their version of Health IT Infrastructure. It’s a cultural change and new healthcare models are trying to break this barrier by integrating as many systems as they can. It is very evident that analyzing and integrating this data collectively can drastically improve patient care and both clinical and financial outcomes, but how to actually collect, read, integrate, understand and leverage the data remains a broken process.

With providers using multiple EMR systems to store patient information it becomes very difficult for a Network of providers or Payers to collate this patient information in order to make any sense of the data. Each EMR system uses it’s own proprietary format to store data which adds to the complexity of the data and since most of them are “Black Box” models, modifications to the architecture is very expensive.  On top of that, between payers, providers and patients, the opportunities to combine data sets can far exceed the willingness or ability of all parties to collaborate. Add to that the poor state of healthcare data integration tools, and you have quite a challenge to make sense of the health care puzzle.

This is not to say that far-reaching innovation is not valuable. But when we look at the barriers preventing us from fundamentally improving care, they require not only creative problem-solving, but perhaps more importantly the courage to acknowledge and insist we can’t truly move forward until we break these barriers down.

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