Big Data is everywhere and it's likely that your organization is compiling massive amounts of information. The question is, how well is your organization utilizing this data? While technology has allowed you the ability to capture most information, and many organizations have upgraded their old paper filing system to an EHR system to better manage information, the healthcare industry still struggles with the use of their gathered information.
In IT circles, data is broken down into two distinct categories - structured and unstructured. Because electronic data is gathered by a programmed method, whatever EHR system your organization uses will organize structured data (or data that is gathered specifically) in a usable method. Unstructured data is the excess data that's not organized into your programmed model. In healthcare, unstructured data accounts for roughly 80% of all information - that means a mere 20% of the information you have on a patient is structured into a usable form.
What Is Unstructured Data in Healthcare?
In healthcare, physicians and office personnel note patient charts with all information garnered throughout their visits. This often includes physician notes on examinations, information garnered from questionnaires, and even billing information. Optimally, your organization should have all of the information available to determine a patient's history in every fashion.
For the healthcare industry, there has traditionally been a hole in the process. Analytics developed for other industries don't quite meet the needs of the physician or healthcare organization, so data doesn't fit neatly into these out of the box programs in a way that's beneficial to all healthcare organization departments. What your organization may be using as far as gathered data is often a small fraction of what might be advantageous to the ability to provide value based care.
For many organizations, the frustration has been in finding a software or program to bridge these gaps - allowing for better use of the unstructured data.
How Can You Use This Information to Improve Patient Care?
The lack of use in unstructured data has often been a matter of organizing the information. With a surplus of data as we see today, it's often difficult to weed through the massive amounts of information to pinpoint what's important. Traditional EHR programs do offer space to note this data but, depending on the protocol within the organization, the lack of a standard process can sometimes lead to information slipping through the cracks.
The key in finding ways for your organization to more fully utilize your system to do more than streamline billing and coding issues is in developing a cohesive way to note and access pertinent patient care information that may be outside of the standard. While it may not be possible to include every possible data field needed for an individual patient, it is possible to better access the information you have in a cohesive manner.