Information is the digital equivalent of snow

Identifying the gaps in healthcare information management

Up here in Canada, it is the tough part of winter where you are done with snow and being cold. It is also flu and cold season – which if you have school age kids like me – means that your house is a mess of tissues and a chorus of coughs and sneezes. All of the sneezes and generally being sick has me made think of healthcare and some of the problems that this season brings to the surface.

There are plenty of “big picture” issues in healthcare; such as cost of services and the cost of new therapies. These are policy discussions that in my opinion will not be solved just through the adoption of technology. For my money, technology can solve pain points – particularly at the grassroots level – those frontline issues that gum up the whole big picture processes.

One that is a common challenge is simply managing different stakeholder needs. Just keeping up with the different insurer codes, data formats and all of the different types of paper forms is one of the issues that causes local healthcare to lag behind the national trends.

This complexity of data, file formats and paper means that information is not shared efficiently between stakeholders (insurers, government, hospital groups, primary practice clinics). It is one of the key reason for the sharp divide of consumer digital healthcare adoption as somewhere between 45% and 70% desire for digital health products and healthcare organizations ability to support consumer healthcare which is less that 40% by most estimates.

Identifying the problem

At its heart, the difference between the wide adoption of EMR technologies, which is estimated at 90%, and the digital experience of healthcare delivery is information management – the key processes and the security; who should see what, who owns what pieces of information, how to share it to ensure that healthcare is delivered efficiently.

This process and security issue reminds me of Inuktitut language’s treatment of “snow”. Without going too deep into linguistics and anthropology of Native American societies; snow is a super category of “frozen water falling from the sky.”

The reason the Inuktitut talk about “snow” is the effect it has on daily life and getting things done. There are “snow words” that denote context and provide guidance to the listener; dangerous snow to walk on, snow for building, falling snow, freezing rain, etc.

Information is a similar complex super-category that includes data and content (ie unstructured data) and in the time of “social media” it might mean a tweet, a Skype session and video. All of which might be records depending on, you guessed it – context.

Unfortunately the guidance part of the the differerent “Information words” sort of got obscured. The software industry has some people that have spent time boiling the ocean to delineate discrete forms of information (me included!). Hence the difference between data and content.

The TL;DR version is: Data is anything that can fit into a database. Content can be anything from a PDF to a image, or in medicine a complex file type such as an MRI or CT-Scan image.

The reality that we overlooked as we tried to boil the ocean to make “information” fit into a sellable app(s) is that data is useless without some context and content requires data (metadata, related data points) to be of use in the real world where there is a strong connection between data and content.

Ahh….but what is information if data is 1s and 0s and content is file types?

Information is all of it – again “digital snow” – and its management requires software to manage data and content -maybe separately (e.g. a EMR a CPOE and a website), but the key with a service layer that ensure users can get to the INFORMATION they need to get work done. 

ApplicationXtender can handle healthcare administrative processes without adding additional applications for users to sign into for specific information.

This is a role that ApplicationXtender, as extensible content service platform can easily handle. Whether the issue is how to capture paper information or simply having a home for real world processes to live. ApplicationXtender has healthcare organizations of all sizes covered.

Interested in learning more about how Content Services can help your hospital or clinic reduce information management inefficiencies? Check out the Content Services in Healthcare whitepaper.

Chris Wynder

Chris is the Product Marketing Manager for ApplicationXtender. He has a wealth of information management knowledge, particularly in highly regulated industries. He shares his deep belief in analysis and taxonomy as the basis of good information governance in his blogs.

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