Health organizations see clinical informatics as an important factor in managing patient care, according to a new report by PwC's U.S. Health Research Institute. Clinical informatics combines technology, patient care, financial reporting and collaborative data sharing.
For the March 2 report, called "Needles in a Haystack: Seeking Knowledge With Clinical Informatics," PwC surveyed 600 health management professionals at pharmaceutical companies, provider organizations and health insurers to find out how they're using clinical informatics. In addition, PwC interviewed 30 health care executives to get insight on trends in clinical informatics.
The benefit of clinical informatics is its ability to improve patient outcomes by analyzing patterns in population health. This process is called predictive modeling.
Health care professionals told PwC they strongly believe that informatics could improve the quality of care, with eight in 10 providers reporting that clinical informatics could reduce medical errors. Meanwhile, 61 percent of the health professionals believe the technology could improve population health.
As the industry moves from payment per visit to payment for outcomes, clinical informatics will help health care professionals track conditions and patterns in patient populations, PwC reported.
Of companies surveyed, 48 percent of providers, 70 percent of insurers and 39 percent of pharmaceutical companies were using clinical informatics to improve care.
"They are ramping up this capacity very quickly, and it's core to their mission in delivering health care and serving their members in producing pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and diagnostics," Daniel Garrett, health information technology practice leader at PwC, told eWEEK.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of providers and 91 percent of insurers considered using clinical informatics to get patients to adhere to their medication schedules as a goal for the next two years. In addition, 71 percent of pharmaceutical companies believed that electronic health records (EHRs) could help them analyze what causes patients' noncompliance with medication.
The study also found some barriers to using clinical informatics to help patient care. Although 56 percent of respondents would like to see data standardization, 86 percent considered this a challenge for the health care industry.
Of providers and health insurers surveyed, seven in 10 said their top goal was to integrate data from multiple sources, but fewer than half of health care organizations exchange data outside their company. In addition, 87 percent of pharmaceutical companies expressed reservations about the quality of data from EHRs.
The PwC research is based on the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, who created the concept of a "closed-loop process" to help companies such as Ford Motor and Toyota use statistical methods to improve manufacturing processes, said Garrett.
Just as data from the factory floor can impact how products such as cars are manufactured, patients' feedback to doctors on which treatments worked can improve future health care, he explained.
"If you want to decrease cost and up quality, you have to use this data in a closed-loop fashion," said Garrett. "You have to take that digitized medical data and put it in an actionable format and work with the health care community to turn that actionable data into an improved way of delivering health care."
Demand in health care IT is shifting from people who can develop EHR applications to health care professionals who can make clinical data actionable, according to Garrett. Doctors are looking to pull data out of EHR applications, he said.
Of providers surveyed, 58 percent have hired nurse informaticists, who are trained to interpret medical data.
"To be successful, [health professionals] need to develop an integrated approach between the clinical and technical aspects of this," he explained. "It's not just about aggregating and acquiring the data; it's also [about] the process of integrating that data into how doctors deliver care."