Healthcare and ECM – What’s Up Doc? (part 1 of 2)


This is one of those industry centric topics everyone can relate to … we all need healthcare and we’ll all use it at some point in our lives.  I plan to do a couple of postings on Healthcare and ECM … here is the first.

The healthcare industry is undergoing a major transformation.  We have a legacy health system that is fee for service based resulting in a care system that is high cost with inconsistent quality.  Healthcare provider consolidation is accelerating; competitors as well as payers/providers are merging.  Clinical transformation is already occurring … disease management, health and wellness management, and behavioral health are integrating.  The industry is moving to a more patient centric, evidence based and competitive care system where the players are held accountable and will have to compete on the value they deliver and not rely solely on quantity based reimbursements.

This transformation is driving new thinking, new business models and a restructuring of clinical and operational care models.  The expectation of value is changing and healthcare organizations have to adjust their business models to deliver value, not just volume.  This type of transformation requires innovation … the kind of innovation that improves productivity and competitive advantage … and not just advancing medical technology for technology sake. The main consideration must be for total well being and cost, and not one for the sake of the other.

As the backbone for a transformed healthcare system, leveraging clinical information and operational data in new ways are obvious things to do to improve quality of care, patient satisfaction and business efficiency.  This places a premium on making this information accessible and actionable to optimize outcomes! … and where ECM comes in!

There are many ways ECM technologies are being applied to solve problems in healthcare. Obvious ones are document capture conversion of paper based patient records and advanced case management for care coordination.  I am going to focus on content analytics and leveraging unstructured information to reveal insights currently trapped in documents, records and other content.  I believe this has significant transformative potential as an ECM based information technology.

Studies show that healthcare information is growing at 35% per year and that over 80% of information is unstructured data (or content).  The explosion of information makes accessing and leveraging it a harder task, but this is now an imperative.

Unstructured data resides in many sources:  physician notes, registration forms, discharge summaries, text messages, documents and more.  Because this content lacks structure, it is arduous for healthcare enterprises to include it in business analysis and therefore it is routinely left out.

The impact of this is staggering.  If you had a choice – would you choose to leverage all of your available information or just the 20% that is structured data and found in databases?  This is exactly the type of thing that can accelerate transformation.  We need to leverage the remaining 80% of available information.  After all … would you want your Doctor making decisions about your health on 1/5th of the available information?

It’s such a simple premise but the reality is that until recently, the technology wasn’t available to easily and accurately analyze and unlock insights contained in the unstructured information.  This is where natural language processing (NLP) and breakthrough technologies like IBM Watson and IBM Content Analytics come in.  So let’s apply this to the real world.

Smoking has long been known as a habit that contributes to poor health and diseases like Congestive Heart Failure but how accurately do the healthcare systems of today reflect the patient’s current smoking status?  To understand a patient’s smoking status … it cannot only be a yes/no checklist question found in structured data.  How can a check box know you if you quit 3 years ago … or started again last year and just recently quit again … or that you recently took up casual cigar smoking … or that you cut down from 2 packs to 1 pack a day?  A structured data field can’t understand these nuances.  This is natural language based information found only in text.  These text based descriptions are often captured in registration forms, history and physical reports, progress reports and other update reports.  Most systems have not factored in this kind of information due to the cost and time taken to manually extract it. It’s often too costly and too late. Yet it is exactly this kind of information that could be most critical in improving care.

In a recent private IBM customer data study, we found 40% of the total population of smoking patients were identified in the text of unstructured physician notes, and not the structured data.  This is huge!  Can you imagine doing research on smoking without including this kind of information? … or not including 40% of the total smoking population?

BJC Healthcare has figured out the value of leveraging unstructured data.  They found that structured data alone was not enough when doing research often resulting in the reading of documents … many many documents … one by one.  You can imagine how fun and helpful that was.  They are now using IBM Content Analytics to extract key medical facts and relationships from more than 50 million documents in medical records, speeding up research to ultimately provide better care for patients worldwide… See the recent case study.

I feel strongly that ECM technologies, and especially Content Analytics, can make a huge impact in both the clinical and operational healthcare transformation underway.  I’ll be back in two weeks with more on this topic … which is now published as Healthcare and ECM – What’s Next Doc?

As always, leave me your thoughts and comments here.

7 thoughts on “Healthcare and ECM – What’s Up Doc? (part 1 of 2)

  1. Outstanding Blog Article Craig. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the value of Content Analytics and the additional power of Watson that brings all new possibilities to the Healthcare and Life Sciences Industries!

  2. Great Article Craig! I liked how you presented the value proposition that even a common man should be able to grasp and comprehend the value ECM brings to healthcare transformation.- Sri

  3. As with many industries, the growth of unstructured data and the complex management problems that growth creates needs solutions. I agree that the power of Watson will be great…when it is ready. Organizations have existing infrastructures that will make it difficult to implement Watson based solutions quickly.

    I think this is NOT a binary issue however. There are interim solutions, especially with ECM. The key to a good ECM is to not only to manage ALL unstructured data and make it easier to search/find/be accessible, but to TAKE ACTION based on the search results (which is what you say in your blog).

    I believe an interim step towards Watson based solutions is on fact a well managed repository that uses a robust ECM system, that can evolve with the organization into sophisticated solutions like automated business processes, collaboration, data integration, and analytics…ALL EVOLVING TOWARDS WATSON TYPE SOLUTIONS.

  4. Pingback: Healthcare and ECM – What’s Next Doc? (part 2 of 2) « Craig Rhinehart's ECM Insights

  5. Pingback: Playing The Healthcare Analytics Shell Game « Craig Rhinehart's ECM Insights

  6. Pingback: Have Your Started Your Data Expedition Yet? | The Intrapreneurist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s