Evidence Based Healthcare: Where’s the Killer App?

How do we link patient care to data?
How do we link patient care to data?

They say politics makes strange bedfellows.  How else can you explain Newt Gingrich, John Kerry and baseball executive Billy Beane writing an op-ed together?

In “How to Take American Health Care From Worst to First,” the unholy trinity suggest that “to deliver better health care, we should learn from the successful teams that have adopted baseball’s new evidence-based methods. The best way to start improving quality and lowering costs is to study the stats.”

The authors are on point arguing that such evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) improves patient care and outcomes.  The Cochrane Collaboration and Intermountain Healthcare, both mentioned in the article, have pioneered the use of careful data analysis to improve clinical practice.

Major obstacles to widespread implementation of EBHC remain, however.  Most critically absent are the information systems needed to effectively integrate population-based clinical evidence into individualized medical care.  Online evidence-based resources abound, but care providers do not have tools to link this clinical data to individual patient data.

EBHC expert R. Brian Haynes describes the ideal tool as “a system, such as an electronic medical record, in which an individual patient’s characteristics were automatically linked to the current best evidence that matched the patient’s specific circumstances, with caregivers being reminded or notified of key aspects of management.”

Unfortunately, he noted that “such computerized decision support systems are currently few and far between, and those in existence often fall short of ensuring that the evidence supporting the system is the best available and is kept up to date.”

As companies like Google and Microsoft get serious about developing universal portable electronic medical records, the time is right for an enterprising software developer to launch an integrated EBHC platform. Maybe we’ll find it at the Ontario Hospital Association’s HealthAchieve conference, in Toronto next week. If not, here’s your opening.

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