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What if providers’ clinical data were research-ready?

Providers collect data about patients every day. But what should they be considering — and doing — to put their clinical data to good use?

June 2023 | 4-minute read

Lou Brooks, MA Senior Vice President, Real-World Data and Analytics

Lou Brooks, MA
Senior Vice President, Real-World Data and Analytics

Eric Fontana Vice President of Client Solutions, Real-World Data and Analytics

Eric Fontana
Vice President of Client Solutions, Real-World Data and Analytics

Having data is not the same as having useful data

Every day, providers are collecting data points from patients via clinical encounters. These can include new diagnoses, lab results, socioeconomic barriers to care, meaningful symptomatology and outcomes not resident in health care claims and much more. These data provide rich insight into a patient’s journey through the health care system. And they can be analyzed to help providers understand key drivers of patient health and strive for better outcomes. These efforts may drive greater value for health systems, providers and patients.

Most health care providers are conscious that data are coursing through the veins of their organization and are keenly aware of the inherent value they can bring to patient care. But that doesn’t always mean these giant data repositories are easy to access or to work with, given the barriers that stand in the way.

Standing up an electronic health records (EHR) system itself has its own costs and challenges — and the clinical data outputs often still aren’t analysis-ready. And IT bandwidth and data management resources needed to extract, normalize and package the information in formats that can support clinical and operational research are not always easy to come by, even for larger organizations.

So, while many organizations actively evaluate opportunities to maximize data value in innovative, secure and scalable ways, is there a way providers can leverage these data more easily?

Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Trusted third-party vendors specializing in data science can help provider organizations optimize data quality and possible use cases. Organizations can then reap the benefits of their own data without the headaches associated with packaging the data and maintaining the necessary storage infrastructure. With this support, organizations can forge purposeful partnerships to help transform their data into insights that will further their strategic and clinical priorities.

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Realize the potential of your own clinical data

Providers may see the growth of big data companies in the health care space and wonder how they might also capture some of that value for themselves. Increasingly, organizations are looking to a long list of partners who can help them organize and normalize their data in a way that is suitable for meaningful analyses.

That repackaged, analysis-ready information is then in your organization’s own hands to address market-specific challenges, set benchmarks, reduce care variation or improve service line performance. And with more accessible data, groups within large research enterprises, such as academic medical centers, can collaborate more readily and conduct analyses to support publications.

Integrating those analysis-ready data with other larger, de-identified real-world data (RWD) assets can open even more opportunities for discovery and innovation. With a vendor cleansing, normalizing and tokenizing your organization’s data, it’s easier to link various assets. For instance, linked EHR and claims data can provide you with a deeper look at your facility’s patient population to detect trends and test hypotheses. And the addition of genomics data can help researchers predict treatment response and model risk stratification.

With the recent expansion of third-party aggregators, provider organizations have several options to consider. Leaders should expect features such as regular and timely data refreshes, access to platforms that your own teams can use and benefit from and assurance of patient privacy.

Confront privacy and security concerns

The potential for unlocking any data asset must be balanced with some grounded thoughts about the risks associated with patient privacy. Holding patient privacy in the highest regard is non-negotiable. Any trusted data aggregator should ensure integrated data are statistically de-identified and have measures in place to prevent re-identification of patients when linking assets.

A recent study from health system stakeholders from across the world concluded that the benefits of sharing patient data outweigh the risks. Privacy risks are always serious, but the potential gains for patients — such as new therapies, earlier diagnoses or more precise treatment options — offer significant advantages.

Safe, secure data sharing opens the door for new opportunities for cross-industry research and innovation. And pooling de-identified clinical data from various institutions can bring forth more diverse, representative data sets. Embracing this opportunity to share clinical data and collaborate can contribute to new scientific discoveries, helping institutions provide better care for their patients in the long haul.

It’s unlikely that all provider organization leaders will become comfortable with the idea of wide-scale data sharing overnight. But a greater openness to using and sharing your organization’s de-identified data is crucial in today’s data-driven environment.

Ask the tough questions and find a thoughtful data partner

For provider leaders open to collaborating with a vendor or third-party aggregator, consider the following questions to derive the most value from your data:

  • What gaps exist in your data infrastructure that would be necessary to seek from an external data partner?
  • Is your organization appropriately resourced to draw insight from these data, or will you need assistance?
  • What types of business or research questions might you be able to answer — that you cannot answer today — with your own data packaged in an easy-to-use format?
  • How will your organization evaluate different options for leveraging clinical data?
  • Do you have a need for data views outside typical clinical data, such as clinicogenomic data?
  • What concerns does your organization have about data sharing with other industry stakeholders? How can you address those worries?

Working with a reputable, experienced data partner can help you streamline efforts to aggregate and analyze your data. Optum Life Sciences provides support and tools to do just that. We connect the health care ecosystem to illuminate the data and insights that catalyze innovation, expedite therapeutic access and reduce unnecessary medical spend to drive greater value for patients and their caregivers.

Interested in learning more about the value of real-world data in transforming clinical care? Contact Evan Stuaan, director of product innovation, Optum Life Sciences, at evan.stuaan@optum.com.


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