Friday, June 03, 2022

The Case for Data Unity, Sharing, and Usability

Today’s guest post comes from Bonnie Briggs, Associate Director of Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer, Health.

Bonnie describes how pharmaceutical care would benefit from standard medical record identification. She then discusses the practical issues behind implementing and adopting such a system.

To learn more, download the Wolters Kluwer free ebook: Drug Data Unity: Realistic and Idealistic Futures for Information Exchange.

Read on for Bonnie’s insights.

The Case for Data Unity, Sharing, and Usability
By: Bonnie Briggs, RPh, MBA, Associate Director, Clinical Effectiveness, Wolters Kluwer, Health.

Healthcare leaders have a responsibility to provide the best care, and that includes streamlining, improving, and innovating processes that build a better care delivery system. The information exchange process globally is still less than ideal today, leading to time and productivity waste, business inefficiencies, and harmful variances in care.

Despite advances in developing standards led by organizations like HL7 to help facilitate the smooth flow of health information exchange, data exchange today still isn’t easily accessible and shareable by every member of the healthcare ecosystem. Whether it’s dealing with healthcare information exchange within the same industry or across industries that work with healthcare data, each organization is left to decide how to deal with data differently. This is problematic, with electronic health records already contributing to somewhere between 11% to 60% of physician burnouts in 2021.

How can medical institutions improve the exchange of health data that can lead to greater unity and usability, not just nationally but on a global scale? Let’s look at some challenges and possibilities relative to data unity.


Is it realistic or idealistic to envision a healthcare ecosystem where all players are fully interoperable—a healthcare landscape that enables and encourages consistent communication among various providers and coverage sources?

Idealistically, informatics experts say we currently have the data and capabilities to achieve this vision of data unity. But this would require every healthcare entity in each region to commit to adopting a set of standards for data sharing, including broadening what types of patient information is shared. It would also require developing and implementing a consistent interoperable technology.

Realistically, this vision of data unity is difficult to achieve because it seems impractical that every healthcare entity in a region would agree and consistently adhere to such standards. They would need to be universally enforced, either by a government agency or standards body, and would require universal patient identifiers, a concept that, at least in the U.S., is often a political non-starter.

Lastly, it would be challenging to get all healthcare providers and businesses to commit to the technological development work required for such an enterprise.


Medication errors can cause a whole list of unwanted, devastating impacts on care delivery, from actual patient harm to high care costs and an unnecessary strain on staff resources. In 2019, the U.S. FDA disclosed that they receive over 100,000 reports a year on medication errors.

According to Steven Hart, MD, a clinical informatics expert, drug errors cost society a lot. “That includes the individual patients who might be harmed and maybe have a longer hospitalization or become permanently impaired or die,” he said. That’s a big deal to that patient, but it’s also a big deal to the insurance company that has to pay for the ramifications and to the hospital, potentially. That’s where it becomes a systemic issue. If you can reduce adverse drug events, the net benefit to society would be quite large financially.”

Healthcare professionals have access to a wealth of data inputs to draw context for clinical drug safety screenings, such as lab data, current patient weight, problem lists, demographics, and more, in a hospital setting. However, when that data leaves the hospital a data input gap exists between the hospital and the world of retail pharmacies, clinics, outpatient care, and insurance counseling services, which could lead to harmful drug errors.

Pharmacists dealing with a patient ideally should have all the same information as physicians, but retail pharmacists and other providers outside the admitting hospital only have access to a small fraction of demographic and diagnostic data.

In many ways, true data unity may be an ideal. Our current healthcare information technology landscape is more interoperable and interactive than it was even a decade ago, so there is reason to be hopeful.

Download the Wolters Kluwer ebook Drug Data Unity: Realistic and Idealistic Futures for Information Exchange.

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