HIMSS 2011 Wrap Up: Why ACOs are the push that will drive data – unstructured and structured – to work together

Instead of putting my post-HIMSS evaluation to paper…err blog…right away, I let it simmer. I read every media outlet recap, rehash and regurgitation of the event. And, without surprise, the most popular three letters were ACO (accountable care organization).

The excitement of ACOs at HIMSS was well-warranted – after all, the model could potentially revolutionize the way that healthcare is performed and achieved. But, although HIMSS is clearly a healthcare IT organization, I was a bit disappointed that the implications for healthcare IT were only mentioned in passing.

Since I’m guessing I’m not the only one in this boat, here’s my evaluation of it, taken from media, attendee and analyst meetings.

To start, let’s just say that if you thought “meaningful use” incentives were driving healthcare IT adoption, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The proposed ACO model means that compensation is based on keeping costs down and improving outcomes. In other words, doctors would be thrilled to have consistent, accurate data that’s readily available.

With all of these drivers in place, the ramifications are clear: the time has come that unstructured and structured data working together is an absolute must. As one of the analysts put it during a meeting we had at the show, “unstructured data is coming of age in healthcare.”

Let’s recap:

  • Healthcare organizations need one, central patient record
  • Both structured data (date of birth, blood pressure, etc.) and unstructured data (EKG wave forms, retinal scans, digital photos, etc.) need to be combined in a way that’s consistent and usable

More than ever in healthcare, this situation warrants paperless, automated patient care. Here’s an example. A patient takes a test, which generates a result from the lab. Currently, that result is either managed as a hard copy document, or is scanned into some kind of file server or document imaging solution.

But in this next world where structured and unstructured data are united, this would all change. The lab result would be scanned into an enterprise content management solution, which could then automatically pull specific data values off of the document and populate the electronic medical record. Not only does this create better data; it also makes a more real-time healthcare organization.

Just as we saw with “meaningful use,” a healthcare model driven by better, more efficient patient care results can’t just be created on political handshakes and policies. It’s the successful combination of structured and unstructured data – and the EMR and ECM systems that support it – that will make it attainable.

Her title may say "Public Relations Specialist," but Kaitlin McCready's got her hand in the corporate Web site, social media, marketing writing and media relations, too. From Baldwin-Wallace College, she came to Hyland in March '08 with big ideas for PR and marketing, including this very blog. In her spare time, she enjoys being disappointed by Cleveland sports, spending time with family and friends, and being involved with the PRSA Cleveland chapter, especially the Young PRos committee. Check her out on Twitter (@kaitmccready) and LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/kaitlinmccready).
Kaitlin McCready

Kaitlin McCready

Her title may say “Public Relations Specialist,” but Kaitlin McCready’s got her hand in the corporate Web site, social media, marketing writing and media relations, too. From Baldwin-Wallace College, she... read more about: Kaitlin McCready