E-Medical Data Valuable To Health Industry

If the healthcare industry can overcome challenges in unlocking data in electronic medical records, those databases could become their most valuable assets.

More than three-quarters of healthcare executives believe their industry's most valuable asset is going to be information contained in electronic medical records, according a report issued Thursday by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report, based on a survey of more than 700 healthcare executives, noted that the hundreds of billions of gigabytes of health and medical information being compiled will have a secondary use in five years that will make it the industry's most valuable asset. The value, however, must be unlocked by finding ways to overcome a lack of standards, privacy concerns, and technology limitations that could hinder use of the data.

PWC also found that 90% of the interviewed executives believe improved guidelines should be developed on how to use and share the data, while 76% believe that there should be some national regulation involved in the use of the health data.

"The implementation of electronic health records is an enormous investment for healthcare providers and for the industry," said PWC's Daniel Garrett in a statement, "but the bigger challenge will be in trying to make use of the wealth of information within the U.S. health system that has been trapped in paper silos, just waiting to be unlocked and leveraged." Garrett is partner and leader of PWC's health industries technology IT practice.

Even though the main challenges of using of the healthcare data remain, PWC found that many organizations have already started to use e-medical records and nearly 60% of those have seen quality improvements resulting in some cost savings, patient/member satisfaction, and revenue gains. The biggest users are providers like hospitals and physicians.

PWC identified medical and healthcare records and data ripe for exploitation as ranging from electronic health records and insurance claims to lab results and employer benefits data. Many executives felt analysis of the massive stock of data can help reduce medical errors, demonstrate the value or danger of drugs and treatments, detect fraud, and identify patterns for improving health outcomes.

To conduct the survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers e-mailed executives in a representative cross section totalling 482 providers, 136 payers, and 114 pharma/life sciences organizations.

InformationWeek Analytics has published a report on the 10 steps to effective data classification. Download the report here (registration required).

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