The Role of Data Integration During the Pandemic

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Click to learn more about author Ibrahim Surani.

In 2020, the world came to a standstill when COVID-19 took over. Its impact has been visible across every industry all over the world. However, one major advantage we have in managing this modern pandemic is sophisticated technology that can help us flatten the curve. By collecting global data and analyzing it, data scientists have been able to predict the spread of disease and empower healthcare facilities to plan for a practical response.

During this time of uncertainty, easy information access is more crucial than ever, especially in the healthcare sector. Data integration falls in the center of the global pandemic response, consolidating massive volumes of patient data from disparate sources to give healthcare personnel instant data access that can help them with every aspect of patient care. Moreover, researchers can utilize this information to potentially accelerate the creation of a vaccine and create guidelines to control the spread of the disease.

For healthcare organizations, it is high time to jump on the technology bandwagon and analyze their data footprint to optimize their healthcare processes and improve patient care.

Data Integration at the Core of Healthcare

Healthcare workers at the frontline have been globally active in managing the pandemic. It’s more imperative now than ever to empower them with the information acquired from clinics, hospitals, and emergency care from both private and public sectors, so they can gather actionable information that can help flatten the curve.

Today, everyone keeps an eye out for the daily test results to gauge how the virus is progressing. Several data visualization companies have created dashboards integrating case data in real-time to keep the public and healthcare sector informed of the ongoing pandemic’s statistics. These dashboards also provide additional information, such as symptoms associated with a specific strain of coronavirus and recovery rate in a particular region. With this data at hand, healthcare facilities can get the vital information they need to control the progression of the disease by taking protective measures and planning for contingency.

Challenges in Healthcare Data Integration

To make sense of the data trapped in silos, it’s important to consolidate it. However, 44 percent of healthcare organizations are unable to extract value out of available data due to systems and integration challenges.

The majority of healthcare systems rely on the implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs) to record and track patient data. Unifying data from different EMR systems often becomes a challenge because of the system’s unique schema. This means that the definition of “disease registries” or “patient” might be different in each system. This discrepancy can create inconsistencies in mapping data points across disparate systems, creating interoperability issues and resulting in corrupt data.

Another major challenge occurs with HL7 integration, a standard data format used by healthcare providers to exchange clinical data. An essential feature of HL7 is that it can be customized in different formats, which can make integration time-and-cost intensive. The process becomes even more complicated when integration with other systems besides EHR is required, such as mobile applications.

Adding a robust data integration solution to the equation can resolve these issues and simplify data access.

How to Streamline Healthcare Integration

Healthcare facilities all over the world are looking for solutions that facilitate standards-based data exchange to simplify data consolidation. In the U.S., commercial and private healthcare sectors are working in collaboration with the CDC and WHO to implement a clinical data repository to ensure that test results are accurately communicated in real-time, ideally to healthcare providers in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

Third-party data integration tools offer support for different data formats, including industry-specific standards for healthcare like HIPAA and HL7, Excel, online applications, PDFs, and more. These tools gather data from disparate sources, massage the raw data, aggregate it, and deliver it to reporting and visualization platforms where health workers can easily access it.

With uncertainty about this virus at its peak, it’s important to consolidate disparate data points and create a complete picture that can help healthcare professionals create an action plan for managing data. This makes data integration an indispensable tool in the fight against the pandemic, promoting data-driven decisions based on a unified view of data no matter where it resides.

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