Linking Claims, Clinical Data Is Essential for a Learning Health System

Is rubber meeting the road with big data in cancer care? “No…rather, not yet,” Green said at the 2017 Community Oncology Conference, April 26-27, held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Published Online: April 28, 2017
Published By: Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
Big data is a term used as commonly as the term “value” in cancer care. However, similar to “value,” the interpretation of “big data” can vary, according to Robert Green, MD, vice president of clinical strategy and senior medical director at Flatiron Health. Is the rubber meeting the road with big data in cancer care? “No… rather, not yet,” Green said at the 2017 Community Oncology Conference, held April 26-27 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Green explained that in order to make data from electronic health records useful, real-world quality data plays an important role. However, it is also important to link clinical and claims data.

“That’s where the future is,” he said.

Quoting quantitative scientist Gary King, PhD, from Harvard University, who said, “Big data is not about the data,” Green explained that it’s about using the data to generate meaningful insights. “At Flatiron, we define big data based on its complexity, rather than the volume.”

The focus should be on leveraging the data for high-value care, on improving outcomes, and accelerating clinical work, Green explained.

“We are being asked to develop interventions that will affect care and the financial viability of our practices," he said. "To achieve this, we need to feed all this information back into our system to improve work flow … the concept of a learning system."

He believes that processing structured data is key to be able to use these data, often described as “data scrubbing.” But a lot of information is not structured—such as pathology or physician notes—and there needs to be a method to extract this information.

“Unstructured data is typically hard to get at, and it’s not possible to get this data into a structured form, accurately, and use it to feedback and improve care," he said.

Green told the audience, most of whom were oncology care providers, that although most of providers think they are good at what they do for patients, “I don’t believe the metrics that I am reporting on are really bringing value to the patient because I checked the required box, such as measuring pain medication.” So, he asked, how do providers find out if they are taking good care of their patients?

“You don’t know how well your patients are doing unless you try to measure their performance,” Green said.



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