Data vs. Information



What’s the difference between data and information? Industry insiders vow this is no play on semantics. They say patient data could and should be transformed into information. Think of how the internet tracks and mines data about a user’s preferences and likes. For example, if you visit a retailer site often, maybe Amazon or Nordstrom – suddenly you receive frequent advertisements promoting similar products to your previous searches. That is data transformed into information. These same principles or methodology could be applied to patient data. Understanding data could impact healthcare IT areas including population health and precision medicine.


If it seems simple enough for the retail industry and other commercial activities, why not for healthcare? There are hurdles, least of which is privacy. Other concerns are interoperability and getting the data from different sources to link together well. And more challenges lie in using all the data-turned-information to impact point-of-care and improve overall patient health. How can the aggregation of the data be understood and applied to increase patient satisfaction and empower patients and doctor alike? That’s where healthcare IT comes in. Analytics-based protocols and tools can be constructed to create data with purpose (information).


The rise of digital health devices and the desired autonomy of patients will likely incentivize care providers to mine data and use it to improve the patient experience. Sharing of data has demonstrated the power to save lives.  When doctors or specialists can freely coordinate care in an expeditious manner and exchange appropriate charts/scans/images, the patient is usually better served. The trick is getting adoption of industry standards while balancing the need for security and of course, privacy. Plus, the string of ransomware attacks at care organizations is concerning everyone (and those issues seem only to be accelerating).


Healthcare information technology that is patient-centric or caters to patient’s needs is becoming an expectation. Many healthcare systems are in the midst of aligning workflows with data collected in order to improve treatment plans. Real data in the hands of trained professionals and under the right leadership can help all stakeholders (patients and doctors alike) to reach a goal of great quality care at lower costs. Data-driven insights, it seems, can make the difference. Hopefully, the right people are getting into place to take advantage.

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