Precision Medicine: Analytics, Data Science and EHRs in the New Age

John Andrews | Healthcare IT News | August 15, 2016

The promise of genomics and personalized care are closer than many realize. But clinical systems and EHRs are not ready yet. While policymakers and innovators play catch-up, here’s a look at what you need to know.

Considering how fast technology advances in the healthcare industry, it seems natural that a once-innovative concept could become obsolete in the span of, say, a dozen years. Knowledge, comprehension and capabilities continue moving forward, and if the instruments of support don't keep pace, it can cause a rift to appear. If nothing is done, it can exacerbate into a seismic event.

Some contend that this situation exists with the rapid advancement of precision medicine continually outstripping the static state of electronic health records. Medical research is forging ahead with genomic discoveries, while EHRs remain essentially the same as when the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology launched the interoperability initiative in 2004. Over that time, healthcare provider IT teams have worked tirelessly at implementing systems with EHR capability and towards industry-wide interoperability. If the relationship between science and infrastructure has hit an inexorable bottleneck, what are the reasons for it?

"It depends on how you look at it," noted Nephi Walton, MD, biomedical informaticist and genetics fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "One of the problems I have seen is when new functionality is created in EHRs, it is not necessarily well integrated into the overall data structure and many EHRs as a result have a database structure underneath them that is unintelligible with repetitive data instances. We often seem to be patching holes and building on top of old architecture instead of tearing down and remodeling the right way"...