AMA Launches Effort to Bring Order to Unruly Medical Data

Responding to research that showed big data wasn’t always delivering better data, the medical group is building partnerships around a common model.

This week the American Medical Association launched a new initiative that hopes to resolve data gaps and discrepancies across the healthcare industry.

The Integrated Health Model Initiative, according to a release, is designed to create a “shared framework for organizing health data, emphasizing patient-centric information, and refining data elements to those most predictive of achieving better outcomes.” Practically speaking, that means IHMI is focused on helping doctors better understand their patients without dealing with the confusion of different proprietary terminology across different databases.

That lack of well-organized clinical data creates a lot of effort from the physician.

Similar data issues have been addressed in other industries, says Laurie McGraw, senior vice president of health solutions at AMA. “But healthcare is notably more complex, and it hasn’t been solved there,” she said. “There are standards out there in terms of data nomenclature, but the organization of those data standards is not ubiquitous.”

The impetus for the program, McGraw says, was a 2012 study AMA conducted among physicians to identify their workplace challenges. Access to clear patient data emerged as a common roadblock.

“What came out of that study is that what physicians value most is caring for patients, and anything that gets in the way of that is effectively a burden to the physician,” she said. “And one of the things that is in the way is not that there isn’t available data, but that it’s not well-organized. That lack of well-organized clinical data creates a lot of effort from the physician, hunting and pecking, and trying to piece together information.”

Two years ago, to respond to the problems spotlighted in the study, AMA launched was McGraw calls a small “skunkworks” program within the association to start designing the initiative. Upon its launch, IHMI is focusing on some of the more prominent chronic health problems, launching communities around hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, with more to come. In addition to the new data model and the communities, IHMI also includes an online clinical validation process where participants will review and discuss new frameworks created through the initiative.

And because each health problem has its own group of stakeholders, experts, and associations, AMA has been building partnerships for the initiative with healthcare groups, medical societies, and technology companies. What emerged from discussions with partners, McGraw says, is that AMA was better positioned to take the lead on establishing a common data framework than a commercial solution.

“We had about a hundred different stakeholder conversations across the healthcare industry, all kinds of different organizations that the AMA currently works with plus a host of new ones,” she said. “And that validated that idea that AMA has a role in solving this as a trusted honest broker.”

(Maxiphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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