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Improving Data Integrity in Healthcare

Modern technology has developed a growing number of tools that enable patients and providers to share healthcare data more easily than ever before. But these digital strides bring challenges with them. Among those? Keeping up with the quality and security standards needed to manage healthcare data. A patient can report symptoms to their doctor via email or text message for a telehealth diagnosis, for example. But will their physician get the full picture, or would they treat that patient differently if they saw them in person and noticed other symptoms that the patient may not mention in their message? The challenges posed by these new data collection methods bear some reflection, to ensure that healthcare providers can do their job properly and to enable the best possible outcome for the patient.

In 2017, health data is generally collected in several ways. Patients can enter their information or transmit it through wearable devices and mobile health applications. Other tools that healthcare providers use to collect data include electronic health records, genomics, and health surveys. These tools certainly provide a rich store of data that can be used across many channels. But not all data is easy to transfer or compatible with different systems, which poses a huge challenge when trying to share information to enhance the patient experience. In addition, modern technology does demand that staff have some training to collect data properly. And when patients are reporting data themselves, accuracy can always be a concern. Since incorrect details can be a matter of life or death in healthcare, it is crucial to develop systems and applications that can validate information and keep it secure.

The American Health Information Management Association has called for organizations to implement standards for handling data in healthcare to ensure its quality going forward. To guide these standards, AHIMA has proposed 10 characteristics:

  • Precision
  • Timeliness
  • Definition
  • Granularity
  • Consistency
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Relevancy
  • Accuracy
  • Accessibility
  • Currency

With improved data collection and accuracy, many healthcare systems hope to leverage the information to provide better outcomes for patients and even reduce their needs for hospital stays and surgeries. Data analytics is a growing trend that hospitals and practices may tap into as technology progresses. Once patients understand the role they can play to ensure the quality of data in their medical records, they too can use that information to take charge of their own health outcomes and collaborate with their doctor to proactively address health concerns.