ACOs are at vastly different stages of using big data analytics to reduce costs and improve care quality, and most have not yet developed sophisticated data systems to aggregate and analyze patient data from several sources, Modern Healthcare's Joseph Conn reports.
ACOs' use of big data
According to Modern Healthcare, only a few of the largest ACOs have created IT systems to compile data from several sources across their patient populations. For example, Minneapolis-based Allina Health, an ACO in Medicare's Pioneer Program that is responsible for about 21,000 Medicare beneficiaries, uses an integrated data warehouse that pulls information from 42 sources. The database includes clinical information from Allina's electronic health record (EHR) system and data on:
- Beneficiary demographics;
- Claims; and
Allina, which also runs a commercial ACO, has created about 60 dashboards to display the data and allow administrators and providers to compare outcomes with performance measures and identify areas for improvement. Allina's ACOs are able to view the data by clinic region, clinic, or physician.
However, most ACOs have analytics systems that are not as developed, according to Modern Healthcare.
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Many ACOs are creating the capacity to receive notifications when patients are admitted to hospitals or EDs, which allows physicians to intervene in order to lower costs and improve quality.
Meanwhile, many smaller ACOs are currently using their own data in combination with EHRs from other providers in their ACO.
Challenges to using big data
According to Modern Healthcare, the biggest challenges for many ACOs with less-developed data systems are analyzing and sharing data and then determining how to make the information actionable. Other challenges for ACOs to creating more-developed data analytics systems include:
- Creating a template to pull together EHR data from different EHR vendors within a single ACO, which requires using application programing interfaces to use information from older EHR systems;
- Large fees charged by some EHR vendors to connect their EHR systems with those developed by other vendors; and
- A dearth of health IT companies developing systems specifically for ACOs.
Future prospects for big data use among ACOs
According to Modern Healthcare, health systems are expected eventually to be able to pull and quickly analyze data from several sources, including information on:
- Location information on enrollees' distance from recreational amenities, such as parks;
- Patients' genes;
- Patients' social media posts; and
- Online consumer purchases.
However, industry experts say such achievements could be years away.
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Robert Booz, vice president of the research firm Gartner, said that the firm projected it will take the health care industry about five to 10 more years until the use of big data reaches the Gartner's measurement for "plateau of productivity" and is widely adopted across the industry.
Meanwhile, Dan Burton—C EO of Health Catalyst, which worked with Allina to develop its data analytics system—said, "There is so much left for us to do with regular data, we feel there are years to work there" (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 1/17 [subscription required]).
The takeaway: Although some ACOs are making use of big data to improve patient care, many small ACOs are still struggling with basic logistic issues that impede the actionable use of the information that they compile.
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