Enterprise Imaging Blog

Shedding Light on Dark Data and the Shadow EHR
Alternate text Posted by John Hansen on 11/8/2017 2:00:43 PM

Shedding Light on Dark Data and the Shadow EHR
The following is the third installment of a four-part blog series on vendor neutral archives (VNAs). If you missed the earlier installments, click on the links for Post 1 and Post 2.

It’s safe to say that Electronic Health Record (EHR) adoption has happened in the U.S. The trend started long ago and accelerated thanks in part to the HITECH Act and ‘meaningful use.’ And while we may not all agree on why it happened or what fueled it, EHR adoption levels in the U.S. are quite high and continue to grow globally as well.

Optimizing the EHR
As most health IT folks are acutely aware, EHRs are expensive to purchase, implement and maintain. Healthcare provider organizations have a lot invested here, and as such, many are now focusing on optimizing their EHR investments in order to derive more value, increase physician satisfaction, and further increase the patient care benefits of the EHR. 

One great way to do this is to image-enable your EHR. In my previous blog, you may have read my description of VNA content as all of the unstructured content – regardless of source or format – which is generated as a byproduct of the care process. In essence, we’re talking about ‘multimedia-enabling’ your EHR with all of this enterprise patient content, which just sounds like the right thing to do if you ask me.

Making Decisions in the Dark
In the last blog, I talked about VNA benefits pertaining to data security and reducing compliance risk, but let’s now shift gears to the patient care benefits of VNA – namely ‘completing the patient record.’ In the absence of  VNA, large volumes of enterprise patient content are floating around in departmental silos, file systems, or on clinicians’ smart phones or tablets. This is often referred to as ‘dark data’ or a ‘shadow EHR’ and includes important patient information clinicians may not have access to or may not even know exists. Why you might ask? It’s simple. Because if it’s not in the VNA, then it’s not integrated with the EHR. And if it’s not integrated with the EHR, it’s difficult to access by clinicians. The result? Care decisions are made with incomplete information.

Allow me to explain further. We’ve already established (in Part 1 of the blog series) that a cornerstone of the VNA is a deep commitment to standards-based interoperability. This includes things like rich integration with EHRs via HL7 or the more recent FHIR-based REST services that many EHRs now support. But there is much more to the story.

Part and parcel with the VNA is an enterprise viewer. Also known as universal viewers, they support rich integration with EHRs in order to securely view this unstructured content on any device. Many now consider the universal viewer as simply the ‘front end’ of the VNA, and together, they can go a long way toward optimizing your EHR investment and completing the patient record.

With a VNA and a universal viewer in place, organizations can finally liberate their content and make dark data available to the clinicians who need it.

Sounds like a bright idea to me.

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Enterprise Imaging Blog

Our blog covers topics related to medical images, including how to safely and securely archive, manage and share these important pieces of medical information. We also discuss issues related to imaging, such as industry trends, government regulation, reimbursement changes and much more.

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