Do you know what is in your database?

Data exchange is a hot topic lately. The idea of a health care system with complete and accurate data exchange is very powerful and can open the doors to better, more cost efficient care. With Stage 2 of Meaningful Use forging the way, everyone is in a hurry to get connected without necessarily thinking through what the data looks like and the safeguards that should be implemented to protect your data. As health care providers, we must be vigilant about maintaining the accuracy of the data that we share with others.

Why isn't my data accurate you may wonder?

Data Issue # 1: One reason for inaccurate data is attributable to renaming of clinical items. Imagine that you are searching your EHR for a diagnosis you don't use very often, Kidney Disease for example, and you cannot find it after 4 or 5 tries. Because you have 40 more patients to see, you enter Keloids and change the name to Kidney Disease. Fortunately and unfortunately, the data in the database is identified by one or more codes and just because you change the name or description of the clinical item, the code does not change.

Implications: If I send the chart of the above person using some form of data exchange, the recipient will believe the patient has a history of Keloids instead of Kidney Disease. This has significant clinical implications and is unfortunately very common.

Data Issue # 2: A second reason data is inaccurate is due to the use of free text diagnoses, allergies, medications, etc. Since text varies and cannot be accurately coded it does not exchange well.

Implications: In the event of free text clinical data, you are looking at data being being omitted altogether from the exchange or exchanged in a format that is not usable by the receiving system. This can be quite serious if a patient has a true allergy to a medication that is not communicated.

These are just a couple of the significant issues I am aware of in looking at real life data. It is imperative that we work together towards cleaning up the data we are sharing. 

Consider joining me on the 27th to talk more about exporting and importing patient data.