Owner-Operated Patient Data

For several years, the healthcare industry has been advising patients to take a more active role in their care. From population health initiatives to dizzying health plan choices, consumers are repeatedly encouraged to engage in and make smart decisions for their wellbeing.

In order for patients to direct their own care, they need the right information. Industry analysis has shown that nearly 80% of patients conduct an online search before selecting a provider. They are looking for the best care possible by the most appropriate physician for them – someone with the expertise, skill and availability to provide the best outcomes.

Demanding Information for All

Unfortunately, when prospective patients go online or call health system referral lines, they don’t always get what they’re looking for. If a person has a torn meniscus, a health system call center can give that prospective patient a list of orthopedic surgeons, but can’t tell them which one of those doctors has the most experience with the particular surgery they need, who has the best outcomes and who has an appointment open in the next few days.

Instead, patients are often left with the unenviable task of calling office after office until they can find the most relevant provider for them. An industry launching today with that same business model wouldn’t last a week.

SEE ALSO: Implications of Personalized Medicine

For a generation accustomed to comparison-shopping for anything, today’s consumers expect immediate access to the information they seek and the high-quality goods and services they want. Thankfully the healthcare industry is starting to take notice – and it is employing Big Data to empower patients to make the most informed decisions.

Data Delivery

Big Data had a slow start in healthcare. In 2005, CMS launched the little-used Hospital Compare, which gave consumers some data about the quality of care at Medicare-certified hospitals across the country. The website crunched CMS’s data to churn out a glut of information, but the data was at a facility level, so it was not very useful in picking a doctor. Patients needing to pick a provider instead turned to subjective reviews from questionable online sources.

Fortunately, Big Data is coming into its own, injecting useful and objective information into a patient’s decision-making process. CMS now reports clinical outcomes, infection data and readmission rates, among other useful metrics. As more data becomes available to consumers, health systems and government agencies are using outcomes reporting to rate providers and help refer patients to the highest quality physicians.

These new “FICO-like” scores for doctors are resonating with patients who have long wanted to find out how qualified and skilled a particular physician is in treating a specific condition. Health systems across the country are increasingly publishing quality data and physician ratings online, “out-Yelping” Yelp! with meaningful analyses which patients can use to find the right providers for them.

In return for making data about physician quality transparent, hospitals are building patient trust – and garnering their loyalty. That’s why nearly every day, a new blog is posted by a health system CEO touting the benefits of quality transparency.

Big Data is not only benefiting patients by giving them the information they need to make the best health decisions for themselves – it is also benefiting the hospitals and health systems that provide the information, transforming quality transparency from an anomaly to an industry-wide movement.

A Patient Game-Changer

And health systems aren’t stopping there. Realizing that good information can’t set a broken bone, Big Data is now being used to streamline appointments.

Nearly 76% of prospective patients’ first visit hospital websites, so health systems are turning their websites into scheduling tools, offering online appointment booking that links users to physicians’ real-time schedules. It is an impressive leap from the frustrating endurance test of the old hold music-infused model to an elegant “OpenTable” type model of online booking. And it is one that caters to modern patients’ expectations of ease and efficiency.

Patients who begin their search with a health system’s call center are finding that Big Data is starting to improve that experience, too. Increasingly, call centers are being given access to outcomes, expertise and availability information to help refer patients to relevant providers.

This is a game-changer for patients – but not an unexpected one. In an era of shopping from our laptops and booking flights from our phones, it only makes sense that healthcare would find a way to get more transparent, efficient and consumer-friendly.

The industry says it wants patients to take a more significant role in directing their own care. Thanks to Big Data, they now have the tools to do it.

David Norris is the co-founder and CEO of MD Insider.

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