Electronic Health Record: The Big Data Aggregator The implementation of EHRs in healthcare practices can solve the humungous health data challenge

By Preetha Vasanji

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A little over a year ago, COVID-19 struck the world. Its devasting force brought healthcare systems upside down, with casualties counting in millions and the threat of a next wave looming large. For India, the impact, especially around the second time, had been far too unimaginable as people made desperate attempts to find beds and crucial supplies while healthcare infrastructure crumbled.

Ever since, the country has been limping back to normalcy and authorities have geared up to fight an imminent third wave. Despite the strenuous efforts being made, only time will tell how efficiently the systems will work when such a crisis unfolds. The pandemic exposed glaring lacunae in our health system that was waiting to reveal its gigantic magnitude. In all the vulnerabilities that surfaced, seeing the rise in digital healthcare solutions to deliver quality care brings some solace.

Boosting digital health in the country has long been a priority for the government. To that mission, it launched National Digital Health Mission to support the integrated digital infrastructure of the country. COVID-19 outbreak has further strengthened the digital health discourse in the policy and public realm. The criticality of the digitization efforts depends upon gathering useful data to churn meaningful insights that could facilitate improved care, push effective decision making, predict endemics, optimize health outcomes and most importantly, cut cost of healthcare.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a well-built data infrastructure in the country could have resulted in patient triage and better management of healthcare resources. That's is where the country lacks. The implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in healthcare practices can solve the humungous health data challenge.

Improving healthcare outcomes with EHR

India's health data ecosystem is still in its nascent stages of evolution. There are myriad challenges that the country needs to overcome to be able to have a sound health data architecture. One of the pressing issues is the scattered and fragmented data, given multiplicity of data sources ranging across physicians, diagnostics and hospitals. The other notable challenge is paper records: the traditional way a lot of physicians still like to write prescriptions. These factors cause a major disruption in building a hub where data generating from different means could be stored centrally. With the buzz gathering speed around big data, streamlining health information that is growing exponentially post the virus outbreak should be a priority.

The potential of EHR in that aspect is remarkable, for the system acts as an ideal source to collect and store data originating from a variety of points in the health ecosystem. Simply put, EHR is the digital version of paper records of a patient's medical history, diagnoses, allergies, lab test results, medications, treatment plans, among others. EHR puts patients at the centre, capturing all the health data concerning them in a structured way at a single point, which could be deciphered using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI)-led technologies. The organized health data of billion plus population can play a big role in public health outcomes, empowering clinicians to take insightful actions concerning their patients. Further integrating individual data sets into the EHR system from wearables, wellness apps and fitness tracking devices would strengthen the data environment, leading to healthcare become more predictable and evolved.

Making sense of data from EHRs

Leveraging artificial intelligence is only possible when there is robust data source in place. EHR in that view is a perfect tool to deploy AI tools and technologies for predictive purposes. From a physician's standpoint, EHR provides physicians with the ability to check out their patients' records concisely, besides it being a great platform for them to receive medical information that's aligned with their specialty in a timely manner.

For pharma brands, it presents a big opportunity to tap into the rising trend. A collaborative partnership with AI-backed programmatic platforms can enable pharma marketers to push right messages to physicians at an opportune moment in a non-intrusive way. Ensuring that the messages don't disrupt healthcare professionals' workflow creates a seamless experience for them. Apt and effective messaging, including around clinical trials, new therapies, drug advancements and patient support, pushed through EHR offers care providers insights and valuable knowledge during their clinical workflow. This could also make physicians consider treatment plans they could have skipped earlier for want of meaningful insights. While there are multiple ways physicians benefit from EHR architecture, in a broad sense it makes care delivery more effective and efficient, given the entire data spectrum is utilized in the best possible manner.

AI-led platforms that elevate physician engagement on EHR networks could considerably cut marketing costs of pharma brands that could ultimately reflect on the prices of drugs. That's what big data can do – make healthcare affordable. It can take a little longer to get there, but EHR can be great start in terms of streamlining big healthcare data.

Preetha Vasanji

MD (India), Doceree

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