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The AMA’s New Integrated Analytics Platform Seeks a Common Data Model

Healthcare data’s worth is measured by how much value it can bring, such as helping to improve patient outcomes, lower care costs or fueling innovation.

When data can’t be accessed or lacks vital information, it’s practically worthless.

“We spend more than three trillion dollars a year on health care in America and generate more health data than ever before. Yet some of the most meaningful data – data to unlock potential improvements in patient outcomes – is fragmented, inaccessible or incomplete,” said Dr. James L. Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association.

Madara’s remarks were part of an AMA statement announcing the Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI), an effort to bring together physicians and the technology sector to collaborate on ways to address the issues impacting modern healthcare.

The goal of IHMI is the creation of a platform that will offer a common data model to address – and ideally, solve – the problem of interoperability, or the ability of computer systems to communicate with each other.

Madara was frank about the present shortcomings troubling the healthcare industry in a speech at the AMA’s Interim Meeting in Honolulu, criticizing the organization of clinical data sets that physicians see and the way electronic health records (EHRs) are being used to organize those data sets.

“We have a pressing need for interoperability, and interoperability defined by being able to transfer clinical meaning, and meaningful data objects, not just clinical data elements,” Madara told the gathering.

The problem is that the data contained within EHRs isn’t presented in a way that gives it meaning. Providers can access plenty of information about patients, but it’s so spread out that a physician might have to gather as many as 75 data elements to get a complete picture. Madara compared the situation to the proverb of the blind men touching an elephant.

“One feels the trunk. Another the tail. One the ear – and each one of the men has in his mind a completely different image,” Madara said.

While the AMA’s initiative seeks to create something whole out of these many parts, it’s also soliciting input from any interested stakeholders in healthcare and technology. Becoming part of the initiative is as easy as signing up on the IHMI website.

IHMI’S partners include IBM, healthcare technology company Cerner, hospital system Intermountain Healthcare, nonprofit organization the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the American Medical Informatics Association.

Besides making data more accessible and meaningful, one of the primary aims of IHMI is to make patient-centric data more available for providers to integrate into care plans and diagnoses, according to Laurie McGraw, the AMA’s Senior Vice President of Health Solutions.

She told Health IT Analytics that despite the large amounts of data at the disposal of providers, there is still information missing that is critical to “describing patient outcomes and wellness,” including the patient’s state, function and goals.

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