Searching for a Cure

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Articles - July/August 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014

Diving into Big Data

Care coordination demands improved technology such as shareable electronic health records. These new IT systems are costly, but Oregon doctors and hospitals view them as up-front investments in long-term savings.

The Portland Clinic, for example, recently installed an expensive new computer system as part of an electronic-health-records initiative. That sent the clinic’s cost-per-visit “sky high,” says CEO Schwab. But he believes the system will pay off in the long run. “The innovations we’re doing are having a negative impact on our bottom line. But if done correctly, there’ll be rewards down the road.”

An effort is under way to create an information exchange among area emergency rooms. This Emergency Department Information Exchange would enable hospitals to find out whether a patient had visited other ERs in the region and what treatment they received — and then refer repeat ER users to more appropriate, less-costly places to get care. The Oregon Health Leadership Council, a body comprising representatives from most of the state’s largest health care organizations, is championing the initiative.

“If somebody comes to your emergency department and they’ve been to four different ERs in the last few months,” explains council president (and former CEO of Providence in Oregon) Greg Van Pelt, “we can figure out a way to get that person on a path to where they quit using the ED for their primary care.”

In the hyper-efficient, quality-centric environment of transformed health care, providers will also need the knowledge and talent to gather and interpret enormous amounts of data on their patients. The potential of big data is huge, but many in health care don’t have those analytics capabilities — at least not yet. “We need to move there, and I think there’s a growing appetite to move there,” Davidson says.


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