How data exploration and systemwide insights lead to better patient care

The Ottawa Hospital and the Canadian Personalized Healthcare Innovation Network (CPHIN) are working together to build a health system that leverages data to empower collaboration and learning in support of delivering high-quality care at lower costs, while promoting the health of all Canadians. 

During a Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by MDClone, Alan Forster, MD, executive vice president and chief innovation and quality officer at The Ottawa Hospital, discussed how health systems can use data as a foundation for transformation.

Four key takeaways were: 

  1. Digitization alone does not equate to high-quality data. Healthcare organizations often make significant investments in technologies and people, yet data still often remains inaccessible, siloed and low quality. More collaboration is needed for high-quality data. "There's an ongoing need for data improvement and standardization of how data is captured," Dr. Forster said. 
  1. Data democratization is the next step on the journey to a learning organization. The Ottawa Hospital is now moving toward a strategy of data democratization. "We recognize that everyone needs access to data if we are going to achieve the success that we desire," Dr. Forster said. "There can be no gatekeepers or bottlenecks."
  1. The widespread data access needed by learning organizations is impossible without robust data privacy and security measures. The data access approach that The Ottawa Hospital launched in the 1990s had pain points related to privacy and security. "It's a bit of a chicken and egg issue. If people don't have access to data, they can't learn what the data mean or how to improve the data quality," Dr. Forster said.
  1. Synthetic data transforms data access for healthcare organizations. The Ottawa Hospital and CPHIN have been working with the MDClone platform, which offers a mechanism for generating synthetic data. "Synthetic data has all of the same characteristics as human subject data from your EMR, but there is no way to track it back to the original dataset," Dr. Forster said. "It's transformative because we can grant access to that information for research and projects that improve learning without concerns about disclosing a patient's identity."

The Ottawa Hospital has worked with experts to define synthetic data from a legal, regulatory and ethical perspective. "Synthetic data is considered non-human subject data, so it doesn't require exception for disclosure. That makes it very flexible and useful for data democratization," Dr. Forster said. 

When it comes to data use and data literacy, The Ottawa Hospital is changing the organizational culture. Team members utilize data to identify opportunities for improvement, what steps are needed to close care gaps and how much progress the organization is making.

"We have seen a massive shift, even over the last three months," Dr. Forster said. "Clinicians and managers use data more often to work through problems together. At senior levels, instead of debating about an issue, someone will write a query and demonstrate their point with the data. People are using data in productive ways to support meaningful collaboration."


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