Pamela Tobias Discusses Pulling Data from EHRs to Improve Processes

Pulling data out of an electronic health record (EHR) to be analyzed can be difficult because that’s not what these systems were typically created to do, said Pamela Tobias, MS, RHIA, CHDA, administrator of oncology services at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

How does electronic health record data improve hospital processes?
So, EHR data, in and of itself, doesn’t make the improvement, we have to employ a team of people to pull data out of the system for us, analyze it, and then we need the human beings to actually operationalize those improvements. Some of the things that we’ve utilized EHR data for are looking at readmission rates, looking at excessive utilization of care, analyzing quality outcomes, and all of that has been placed in discrete data that we’re able to pull out.

But we’ve also found that sometimes you have to go back and create those data fields in order to do your deeper dive analysis as you’re working with some of these initiatives.

How difficult is it to get the data out of EHRs in order to analyze it and make it useable?
I think it really depends on which EHR system you have. I think for most people it’s very difficult, because EHRs, in and of themselves, are not typically designed to be data analytics systems or reporting systems. Oftentimes, you’ll have to purchase another module or additional bolt-on data analysis packages, and, then, obviously, you’ll need your experts who can do the programming and the writing to pull that information out.

I hope that in the future we’ll get to something a little bit more sophisticated where I can see a field on a screen and click and drag that and match it to another field on the screen so that in the real time, when I have that question or one of my clinical team members has a question, we’re actually able to—almost in the way a pivot table functions—grab that right out of the EHR system on the front end without having to put in a report request, wait for that to come back. Because by then maybe a different urgent need has come up and pulled us away from the initial one.
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