Doctors dig for more data about patients

by | Blog

Employers and insurers are pushing for a shift toward preventative care, making use of all sorts of data to forecast the medical futures of patients under their plans. Data sources range from consumer and financial information to federal statistics on housing, unemployment, and poverty. Some hospitals have begun collecting data from patients directly to improve insights on patient health.

In 2012, Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, IL introduced a predictive algorithm to gain a deeper understanding of readmission rates. The algorithm predicts which patients are most likely to return to the hospital within one month using data on patients’ backgrounds and current treatments.

Nine months after launching the predictive tool, high-risk patient readmissions decreased 20%.

Going forward, data scientists at Advocate Health Care hope to incorporate more data found outside medical records to account for financial and lifestyle factors that impact patient health outcomes.

However, the success seen at Advocate Health Care is currently the exception as opposed to the norm. The British Medical Journal published a study in June analyzing 70 predictive health models. Only two models were considered strong and the overall result was “inconsistent performance.”

The key obstacle in developing stronger algorithms is access to data. Both patients and providers have limited time to collect and report data, making obtaining a larger data pool a burdensome process. Primary care patients at Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services have been completing patient surveys since 2010. The survey assesses Patient Activation Measure, a metric to gauge patient self-confidence and perceived ability to manage a disease. Researchers at Fairview, the University of Oregon, and George Washington University suggest that patients’ confidence in their ability to manage their health could be a predictor of future health. These surveys have the potential to allow patients more authority in setting and maintaining health goals.

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