Physicians are overwhelmed by a tsunami of health data that has little clinical meaning. However, the American Medical Association wants to help doctors harness that information to improve patient outcomes.

Speaking at this past weekend’s opening session of the 2017 AMA Interim Meeting in Honolulu, CEO James Madara, MD, said that clinical data sets need to be better organized for physicians and that electronic health records are to blame for the lack of valuable information.

“Currently, we confront oceans and oceans of data, but only puddles of clinical meaning,” lamented Madara. “And the data that’s ultimately entered into the record tends to not be organized in any useful way. Instead, you’re in that ocean of disconnected data points that seem to lack context or organization—that is, to lack true meaning. And your EHR isn’t going to help you much—you’re on your own; go in there and find those puddles.”

To address this shortcoming, AMA in October launched a new digital platform designed to improve, organize and share health information among healthcare stakeholders through a common data model. The Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI), which is open to all organizations, has a number of early participants, including the American Heart Association, the American Medical Informatics Association, Cerner, Epic, IBM and Intermountain Healthcare.

“We launched IHMI last month following two years of intensive work inside the AMA. And we’re delighted that those from various sectors who’ve already joined us have expressed excitement for the project as well,” said Madara.

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According to Madara, IHMI is a potential “game-changer” for the industry providing a “common data model throughout healthcare that is unlike anything that exists today.” In particular, he contends that the initiative will advance physicians’ use of health data in three important ways:

  • Establishing a common data model that can be more easily shared across health systems, enabling the data elements from one vendor platform to be meaningfully translated to another, thereby achieving interoperability and the ability to transfer real clinical meaning.
  • Delivering better-organized and more relevant information about a patient’s clinical data, including social determinants and patient goals, into the hands of physicians at the point of care, providing meaning and context.
  • Creating collaborative digital communities to identify costly disease burdens and identify solutions through a neutral, physician-led validation process.

Madara pointed out that hypertension alone requires about 75 data elements to provide a complete picture of a patient’s condition with regard to this diagnosis. However, he observed that these data elements are scattered throughout the EHR, and a significant percentage of these vital data elements cannot be consistently captured at the level required by physicians, such as self-measured blood pressure readings that automatically connect to and become organized in the record.

“It’s been said that data is the oil of this century, and so harnessing the power of health data in a way that is both efficient for the physician and improves patient care is an enormous and important challenge—one that should be led by physicians,” concluded Madara. “Delivering on this promise will not be easy. It won’t be quick. But physicians aren’t the type to shy away from such challenges, especially when the potential is so great to transform our practices.”