Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interoperability and Data Entry - There are Solutions

This piece on the Syleum blog analyzing data and effective communication on "The Data Model that Nearly Killed me" makes for interesting reading
During the last week of January 2009 a faulty electronic, networked, health information data model nearly killed me despite its vaunted status as a component of two state-of-the-art, health information systems at two of the world’s most advanced medical facilities.
It does not come as a surprise given the complexity of medical information and the exponential growth in that data that keeping all this information correct, connected and up to date. In fact there was a veritable uproar created with the this posting by ePatinetDave - Imagine someone had been managing your data, and then you looked" (also this post). Not surprising to those of us who have looked at our own data for the last several years, myself included but quite shocking to most folks who for that period of time have been entrusting their data to others expecting it to contain accurate and appropriate content.

The sharing of information across systems just doesn't exist and I've talked about his before (here, here and here) and it's frustrating as hell to everyone involved. The patient ends up repeating information multiple times
The nurse who escorts me into urgent care asks me for my doctor’s name. I tell her my allergist’s name. The nurse argues that she wants to know the name of my primary care physician. Of course, that information is in my electronic medical record that she can readily access. The nurse next requests me to relate my medical history - which information is available in the electronic record. Next, an attending physician asks for my doctor’s name, no, not my allergist, my internist, and please relate my medical history. Never mind that (a) I provided this information to the nurse only moments ago, (b) I can barely breath, (c) I have horrible pain in my lungs, (d) I have a high fever, and (e) the requested data already is in my electronic health record.
In fact this is all in one office let alone sharing between offices....! This goes on with multiple interactions being documented next in the Allergists offices, then in the ambulance and then in the ER
I was in ER for 20 hours before being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) where I spent another 28 hours. Throughout my stay, I was hooked to network attached monitors that incessantly sounded alarms to which no one responded. I was asked 11 times to repeat my medical history, medication, and allergies to as many different medical professionals. I was seen by seven doctors each of whom asked me similar questions. Five doctors were never to be seen again. All doctors mumbled something about putting their findings into the hospital’s electronic records system - most did not according to ICU nurses. No one read my allergist’s detailed report about my condition and health history.
Then some heroic efforts to enter and capture this in electronic form
One heroic medical professional, the first nurse I met in ICU, worked to create a consistent record of my condition, allergies, and medications in the hospital’s electronic health information system. She spent over one hour searching for previously entered data, correcting errors, and moving or reentering data.
The review is a damning indictment of "the system" and it matters not which one it is
Medical personnel at urgent care and the hospital who interacted with me all used a version of the same electronic health information system (the “system”). It became clear that everyone was fighting that system. Indeed, they wasted between 40% and 60% of their time making the system do something useful for them. The system kept everyone from fulfilling their duties - the health information system did not help medical professionals perform their duties.
Fixing the underlying data model and the systems that we use to interact with these systems must be on the critical path. Spending millions of stimulus dollars on systems that "wasted between 40 - 60% of clinician time" is not going to fix the problem. Unfortunately fixing the data model is a challenging problem as this is a moving target in medicine. But fixing the capture of this information is not - there are time related challenges but existing infrastructure - dictation and transcription used in conjunction with technology: speech understanding, CDA and the healthstory interchange format and most importantly knowledge based workers: medical editors can help facilitate this process and at least relieve the burden of data entry from the time pressured clinical staff who want to (and used to) focus on the patient and their care rather than on the system and data capture.

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