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HIT Leader Q&A: Big data offers limitless opportunities to improve care

It’s been a privilege to be named to Health Data Management’s 2016 Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT and feature insights on this blog from some of these women leaders*. Their responses, and encouragement from my colleagues, inspired me to share my own answers to the following questions.

Describe your current role and the path you took to get there.

As Allscripts Analytics Chief Medical Officer, my role is to provide medical leadership to a world-class team to develop, design and deploy predictive models to improve health. My introduction to population data and analytics came during my health systems and trauma care fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Having finished my master’s degree in Public Health, I was eager to bring together my interest in improving health systems and background in surgery to improve trauma care in Kenya.

Why did you choose Health IT as a career?

I’ve seen how data can improve quality of care, and that has pushed me to search for efficient ways to translate gaps in care to interventions that improve the lives of patients. The shift to electronic health records (EHRs) has made large-scale healthcare data available, and advancements in technology have created information from nearly every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, this ability to analyze health data has come with significant drawbacks to clinicians, with a resulting system that often penalizes physicians for suboptimal documentation, despite already being overstretched by inadequate face time with patients. I am driven by the opportunity to facilitate data-driven clinical improvements in care delivery without additional burden to physicians who are just trying to take care of their patients.

Which of your career achievements are most meaningful to you?

I was still in Kenya when, on September 21, 2013, terrorists attacked Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. In a siege that lasted several days, 67 people were killed and another 175 were injured.  As one of the medical incident commanders at the scene, I led first responders and EMTs in triage and stabilization of victims over the duration of the siege.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, I struggled to come to terms with the lack of protocol, disparities and gaps in emergency care I had witnessed first-hand. Determined to effect change, I decided to take the account of events to the Ministry of Health, supported by hospital and pre-hospital injury surveillance data. This action resulted in an inaugural draft of a National EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Policy, operationalizing the constitutional right to emergency care for 40 million Kenyan citizens by mandating toll-free access to care (911), recognizing trained EMS providers and use of protocols in disaster and emergency response.

By following the data that flowed from this emergency situation, we found that we were able to make a real difference on a national level. And that’s just one example of effecting change with one type of data. With big data, the opportunities to improve health care are limitless.

What are the biggest barriers to effective population health management today?

The biggest challenge today is normalizing data so that data from numerous sources can be used to derive value and manage population health. We need to encourage those who have data to collaborate for better outcomes, breaking down silos that exist because of reluctance around data-sharing. Through industry innovation and collaboration with national and state policy makers, findings from large-scale population health data analytics can address this issue and lead to better care.

What are best practices that can help overcome these barriers?

New tools can better identify and manage populations at the highest risk – filling the gaps in documentation from current EHRs, and working to improve patient engagement and responsibility for health outcomes. By simplifying analytics with actionable, point-of-care solutions embedded within the workflow, Allscripts Analytics is working to make it easier for clinicians to do the right thing. We’re helping clients identify and implement data-driven quality improvement efforts for better patient outcomes.

How are organizations tackling population health management today compared with five years ago?

Today, the industry is moving toward a holistic approach to integrated clinical care, made possible by informatics and interoperability among data sources, EHRs, devices and social/environmental data. There are more innovative ways to enable better patient care, for example, by helping patients to take an active role in their care through data ownership and patient responsibility.

How do you envision population health management changing in the next five years?

A precision medicine approach to care will revolutionize the way clinicians care for patients. Through extrapolating big data insights and predictive modeling, clinicians will be able to develop individualized patient care plans and optimize patient outcomes.


* Read insights from other HIT leaders, including:

Lessons learned from systems and Starbucks – Kate Pavlovich, Director, Strategy and Data Analytics, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

‘Endless possibilities’ spur journey from nurse to CIO and beyond – Kara Marx, Vice President Information Technology Applications, Sharp Healthcare

The evolution of embedding excellence in health care – Carol Steltenkamp, M.D., MBA, FAAP, FHIMSS. Chair, HIMSS International Board of Directors. Chief Medical Information Officer, University of Kentucky HealthCare

Interoperability experts weigh in on career, population health – Diane Michalec, RN, MSN, Director of Interoperability and Amy Urban, DO, MPH , Clinical Director of Interoperability at UPMC

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