Report: Healthcare must harness patient data beyond that in EHRs

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If clinicians are to gain a more holistic view of their patients and improve the quality of care, they must leverage data beyond merely tapping information in electronic health records.

That’s the assessment of a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which contends that the real promise of EHRs can be found in combining medical records with genetic information as well as non-clinical data.

In particular, the report—Data for Good: Promoting Safety, Health and Inclusion—makes the case that physicians are increasingly turning to social determinants of health (SDOH), a relatively new term in healthcare.

“Using SDOH data to improve the quality of healthcare is a newer application,” states the joint report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center and the Policy and Economic Research Council. “It has been discussed and researched for decades—especially by multilaterals in the context of emerging markets—but has not made its way into mainstream until recently. Discussions are now heating up about how to acquire and apply the data.”

According to the report, SDOH data—the socioeconomic and environmental factors that influence an individual’s ability to be healthy—must be integrated into clinical practice because medical care as a determinant of health is insufficient for ensuring better outcomes.

Also See: U.S. infrastructure for sharing health and social data needed

The report’s authors see SDOH data as a complement to EHRs—as well as genetic information and data from wearable devices—in order to better identify patient risk factors for certain health problems.

“As EHR and other patient data becomes more available (such as data from wearable devices), the integration of these datasets with SDOH data will likely produce powerful new tools to improve patient care, medical outcomes and medical research,” states the joint report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center and the Policy and Economic Research Council.

At the same time, while the report concludes that early evidence on the use of SDOH data by clinicians is promising, the authors point out that “we are still years away from realizing the potential harnessing all of this information” and that “there remain regulatory challenges, principally around data privacy, that must be addressed to facilitate the full potential of SDOH data.”

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