Merge: The Clinical Case for a Comprehensive Enterprise Data Management Strategy

Judges and juries make decisions only after they have heard testimony that tells “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” from witnesses. Clinicians need to be a orded the same luxury before making important patient-care decisions.

The good news: Electronic medical records (EMRs) have made it possible to provide clinicians with access to a patient’s medical history, or a patient’s truth, at the point of care. The bad: These electronic systems only tell part of the story – not the whole truth that is required to make informed choices. “To make the best care decisions, clinicians need to have access to all the clinical information tied to each patient from across the continuum of care, across multiple facilities, multiple departments,” said Louis Lannum, director of enterprise imaging at Cleveland Clinic and a member of the HIMSS-SIIM Enterprise Imaging Joint Workgroup.

The problem is that “with electronic health records, about 40 percent of the information follows the patient across the continuum. The other 60 percent is unstructured data, which includes medical images,” Lannum said. What’s more, “those images are typically stored in departmental systems and in most institutions there is an absolute inability to share,” he explained. In fact, in today’s healthcare organizations, medical images often become part of an organization’s “dark data” – the information that is stored in a system but remains inaccessible to clinicians at the point of decision. 

The ability to access images at any time, from any location and from any device, however, can enable clinicians to provide more e ective patient care. In order to empower clinicians in this fashion, healthcare leaders must acknowledge the need for comprehensive enterprise data management strategies and implement the technologies that will support image viewing and sharing across the entire continuum of care.