Last Wednesday, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and the Duke Center for Health Informatics hosted the second annual informatics conference on “Business Intelligence in the Health Care Age.” The conference hosted a number of high profile members of academia and industry who discussed several topics regarding the ongoing transformation of how we use and protect our health care data. Talks and panel discussions described past, ongoing, and future attempts to obtain meaningful value from patient health care data.
The conference provided a snapshot of our current ability to standardize patient data to allow for useful, automated analysis to inform health care recommendations. A common theme that emerged was that many innovation efforts are being initially driven by mandates in the HITECH act, which extends personal health information disclosure requirements to electronic health care records. Although compliance with these new standards bear the relatively low-hanging fruit of improved health care information technology, additional efforts to provide an interactive, learning health care system would provide a real value in the future. In terms of what to expect in the near future, both Asif Ahmad and Jeff Ferranti suggested that accomplishments in improved health information technology which have up until now focused mostly on compliance, are now starting to address quality improvement, and will in the future be able to perform risk prediction and help provide personalized medicine.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges towards the automated personalization of medicine is that dictated or free-text information currently composes about 80% of the medical record. At present, few efforts have been made to address how such information, which is highly variable between specialties and from physician to physician can be usefully incorporated into the electronic health record. How to standardize and automate the crux of what makes a medical record personalized will be an ongoing challenge in how we merge the benefits of health informatics, personalized medicine, and prospective health care in the future.