Marc Perlman

How Liquid Data Can Fuel Next-Generation Healthcare

“Building the right infrastructure to support data collection, integration, and transformation is essential to enable new insights, and to promote highly effective and efficient personalized care.”

by Marc Perlman, May 2012

In the global economy, healthcare challenges and issues are rising to the top, irrespective of the country or region. The lack of availability to significant numbers of citizens, escalating costs, and growing influence by governments — further exasperated by the desire for consumer control and access — has created a serious crisis.

The vision for next-generation healthcare can be defined with four words: predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory. This approach, coined “P4 medicine” by biologist Leroy Hood, shifts the emphasis in healthcare from reaction to prevention and from disease to wellness. It also focuses on the development and delivery of individualized therapies that enable optimal outcomes, while reducing adverse events. P4 medicine promises to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and empower patients to take a more active and informed role in their care.

Information is the key to realizing the potential of P4 medicine — whether flowing from healthcare providers to pharmaceutical organizations for the development of more personalized therapies, exchanged between providers to improve care coordination, delivered to the point of care for more informed decisions, or communicated directly to patients to enable them to assume a more active role in their care and health.

Making Data Liquid for Transformation into Actionable Information

Our journey toward the next generation of healthcare requires us to rethink the technology, processes, and people needed to support it. The amount of data that today’s healthcare systems are gathering is staggering. However, sheer volume does little to advance care if it remains isolated in old information silos. We have many of the systems in place to generate raw data — such as electronic health records (EHRs), clinical information systems, and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems. The critical data from these systems, however, remains largely frozen. Our data must become liquid.

In the simplest terms, liquid data is information that can flow to where it is needed in a form that can be easily accessed, and is semantically interoperable and ultimately actionable. It requires trusted and secure access and exchange, and drives the ability to recombine data at a secondary level to drive new insights.

On the road to personalized medicine and improved population health, our next milestones will be supported by the ability to better assess performance and outcomes, and clinical and comparative effectiveness. Widespread secondary use of health data will be important to improve outcomes at a patient level, to advance new treatments, and to improve overall population health. Liquid data is essential in achieving each of these goals. While it may sound simple enough, we continue to face hefty roadblocks along the way — including competition amongst those providing and consuming healthcare information, which has led to data lock-in.

The key technology that will enable us to achieve the liquidity needed in our healthcare data is interoperative information exchange. This exchange will aggregate and standardize data from core transactional systems, and seamlessly enable healthcare providers and researchers to act on it.

Organizations on the front lines of helping healthcare organizations achieve this important goal are offering complete, standards-based solutions to facilitate integration and automate processes in the healthcare enterprise. For instance, Oracle’s Health Information Exchange provides a suite of extensible, open, standards-based solutions built upon a reliable technology infrastructure for the secure exchange of electronic health information. These globally-deployed solutions enable healthcare entities to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and most importantly, improve patient care. Oracle Healthcare Master Person Index provides a single point of reference to information about a patient, clinician, payer or other healthcare entity within and across healthcare organizations. It ensures the availability of unified, trusted data from many systems that reference the entity with different identifiers or names.

Robust Applications Drive Informed Decisions

Gaining actionable insight and driving transformation requires powerful applications for both physicians and patients. If liquid data is the fuel for enthusiastic patient engagement, applications are the vehicles for driving us to our information destination. They must be engaging, useable, and interactive, and they must provide clear direction to the physician and patient. Further, if health IT is to become the next participant in healthcare, it must be intelligent enough to be an advocate in helping patients reach their health goals, while driving personalized care around the clock.

Increasingly sophisticated decision support systems and analytical applications that are emerging will be fundamental to realizing P4 medicine. We are seeing the emergence of next-generation clinical decision support systems that guide decisions at the point of care, as well as analytical applications that enable providers to better evaluate outcomes and facility operations. For example, Oracle Enterprise Healthcare Analytics is helping organizations gain expanded clinical and business intelligence through an integrated picture of clinical, financial, administrative, and research information. It presents a holistic view that enables a new generation of insights to optimize clinical and operational performance. This can truly “close the loop” in healthcare intelligence, allowing for the right clinical information and best treatment practices to be placed at the point of care.

Integrated or “accountable” care is gaining momentum, but will only succeed if consumers can play a more active role in their care. Personal health records (PHRs), which enable patients to enter health data and information related to their care, will help set the stage for increased engagement and collaboration in a more efficient and streamlined manner. Initial adoption remains slow, but as we develop more technologies to bring personal information together and integrate it into a provider’s workflow, consumers will be empowered as they gain the capability and knowledge to add vitality to their care. To be truly beneficial long term, however, technology must deliver information to the physician, and ultimately the patient, in a proactive, timely, and secure manner. This must occur through preferred communication channels, starting at the infrastructure level with liquid health information.

We find ourselves at an exciting time in the history of modern medicine, as we look forward to what the next generation of healthcare will bring. Building the right infrastructure to support data collection, integration, and transformation is essential to enable new insights, and to promote highly effective and efficient personalized care.

Marc Perlman is Global Vice President of the Healthcare and Life Sciences Industry Business Unit at Oracle.