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Meaningful Use


Unstructured data a common hurdle to achieving guidelines


Healthcare organizations are increasingly looking for solutions to transform paper-based processes into more effi cient electronic workfl ows.


By Dennis Amorosano T


he healthcare industry watched with great inter- est earlier this year as the Department of Health and Human Services announced its new Stage 2 guidelines, addressing the requirements for mean-


ingful use of certifi ed electronic health record (EHR) systems


Of the 1.2 billion clinical documents produced in the United States each year, approximately 60 percent contain valuable information trapped in unstructured documents that are unavailable for clinical use, quality measurement and data mining.


that enable health organizations to qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments. With the goal of improving pa- tient outcomes, meaningful-use guidelines largely address the integration of structured and unstructured data into EHRs. So what exactly is unstructured data? Industry analyst


fi rm Gartner Inc. defi nes it as “information not housed in a database or fi le system as discrete data.” In the healthcare industry, this data generally refers to hard-copy documents, such as test results, referrals, reports, medical images, patient charts, insurance documentation, orders and medication logs. Indeed, unstructured data is a rich source of information for care delivery, decision support and research.


28 June 2012


And while the goal for many healthcare organizations is to ultimately convert to an entirely electronic system, the current reality is that paper-based, document-intensive pro- cesses will continue to persist for specifi c healthcare activities, creating massive amounts of unstructured data for health- care organizations of all sizes. From informed consent and advanced directives to scheduling, prescription information and discharge instructions, unstructured data runs rampant in most healthcare organizations, despite their best efforts to implement EHR systems.


In fact, of the 1.2 billion clinical documents produced in the United States each year, approximately 60 percent contain valuable information trapped in unstructured documents that are unavailable for clinical use, quality measurement and data mining. These paper documents have until now been the natural byproduct of most hospital workfl ows, as healthcare is one of the most document- intensive industries.


In an effort to keep up with the growing trend toward HL7-compatible workfl ows and the Health Story Project (a nonprofi t organization involved in the development of international healthcare informatics interoperability standards) and demonstrate meaningful use, healthcare organizations are increasingly looking for solutions to transform paper-based processes into more efficient electronic workfl ows that will not force them to rebuild their documentation systems from the ground up. Most are seeking better ways to reduce expenses, digitize forms and comply with HIPAA and other regulations. As such, the use, retention, printing, copying, scanning and fi ling


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