Secondary use of EMR data seen reducing costs, improving quality

While few practices and hospitals currently use aggregated patient data, the number is expected to increase, and a new study touts the information's benefits.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Oct. 23, 2009

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One of the biggest untapped benefits of electronic medical record adoption is the secondary uses of the data that are being collected, concludes a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The study, "Transforming Healthcare through Secondary Use of Health Data," found that practices and hospitals have seen aggregated data from their electronic medical records identify patterns that have allowed them to improve outcomes, reduce errors and increase revenue opportunities.

But the number of institutions using the aggregated, or secondary, data in this way is very small, though it is expected to grow in the next two years.

"Almost every constituent in the [health care] industry that has to make a decision around what type of health care to deliver and when could use this kind of data and the information that aggregating it can produce," said Dan Garrett, health IT practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report found that among those organizations already using some form of secondary data, 59% have seen quality improvements, 42% have achieved cost savings, 36% have seen patient/member satisfaction improve, and 29% have increased revenue. The biggest users of secondary data are hospitals and physicians, while health plans are the farthest behind.

The survey found that although 95% of physicians are not opposed to using secondary data, many are sensitive to how it should be used. Patients also are concerned.

"We all know we need to use this data, but they also know we can't risk security," Garrett said.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report came from an e-mail survey conducted in June of 732 health care executives, 482 physicians, 136 payers and 114 pharmacy/life sciences organizations.

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