2012: Health industry's informatics and social media usage to boom

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2012: Health industry's informatics and social media usage to boom

by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer | November 23, 2011
Next year will be an important one for health informatics and social media utilization in the health sector, as security and privacy models are re-assessed to cope with evolving technology and social networking avenues, predicts PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute in a recent report.

Health organizations will considerably invest in health informatics, forming data-sharing partnerships with organizations that have mutual interests in new uses of information. The report states this will improve health outcomes, coordinate patient care, identify population health trends, speed targeted product time-to-market, and identify and manage high-risk populations. But before data assets can be maximized, the industry will need to work out privacy and security kinks.

"Awareness of data security and privacy is growing," said Lindsey Jarrell, principal and co-lead of the electronic health record practice. "Health care organizations and patients are understanding health care data, security and privacy more and more."

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In PwC's nationwide poll of 1,000 U.S. adults, six in 10 surveyed said they would be comfortable having personal health information shared among health organizations (including hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies) if it would improve the coordination of their care. When choosing one hospital over another, surveyed patients said that if cost, quality and access were equal, clear privacy and security policies were more important than hospitals' use of electronic health records.

"The survey results indicate that consumers and patients understand that the health care industry is taking patient security and privacy very seriously," said Jarrell. "Six years ago, patients had little trust in health care organizations of all types. We see trust is now increasing as patients begin to understand that the likelihood of patient outcomes will improve with shared data."

Aside from security and privacy matters, the industry will need to address issues around data collection, quality and integration, develop scalable analytical tools and overcome the shortage of skilled informatics professionals and trainers, said PwC's report. In the past five years, a lot of legislation has come out of the federal government relating to these issues, including Medicare's Value-based Purchasing Program and accountable care organizations.

"Health care organizations are constantly incentivized to use patient data appropriately," said Jarrell.

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