Using Health Information Technology to Track Medical Care
[Understanding Medical Informatics and Outcomes Reporting]
By Brent A. Metfessel
Computerized health information technology systems are increasingly being used to analyze the cost-effectiveness and quality of care given by physicians. A number of third parties show interest in such information, including health plans, Federal and state governments, and consumer groups. Physicians need clear awareness of the methods used to track their practice patterns, whether the tracking includes the cost of the practice, quality of care (such as frequency of preventive services that a practice provides), or outcomes monitoring.
Using information systems for such purposes is part of the growing field of medical informatics, which can be defined as the applied science at the junction of the disciplines of medicine, business, and information technology, which supports the healthcare delivery process and promotes measurable improvements in both quality of care and cost-effectiveness (Source: Medical College of Wisconsin). Although a number of definitions of medical informatics exist, this definition is the one most relevant to the application of informatics to the tracking of care processes and physician profiling.
Categories of Data Used to Profile Medical Care Processes
Having the correct data to support the measures used in practice profiling is key to accurate reporting. The data must be “clean” and as free from errors as possible. Errors in the data may occur due to a number of factors, such as poor diagnosis or procedure coding as well as the mis-keying of data fields such as cost values. In addition, the category of data used needs to match the desired measures that one hopes to obtain. For example, if a person or organization wants to look at the effect of a congestive heart failure treatment regimen on exercise tolerance, claims data would not be the appropriate source. Functional status data would need to be collected as well. The following five data categories are of greatest interest in care profiling.
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