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The COVID-19 pandemic has put health care in the spotlight. It has brought its strengths and weaknesses to the forefront, especially in the way patient data is managed. It’s a critical issue underscoring the need for innovative solutions.

“COVID-19 has highlighted critical challenges faced by our health care delivery system,” says Sonia Pagliaroli, Chief Nursing Officer at Cerner Canada. “The single common thread in all of them is data. When we’re dealing with a pandemic such as COVID-19, it’s imperative that everyone has access to clinical data across all venues to protect our health care workers and provide the best care to patients.”

Understanding the big picture — with data

During a pandemic it’s important to have near real-time data related to testing, screening, and resource capacity to manage the spread and plan for capacity. “Most of this data currently resides in siloed systems and often requires manual intervention to consolidate the data for provincial and national reporting,” says Pagliaroli.

This effort addresses the need for planning data, however, it doesn’t resolve the availability of data at the front lines. For example, a patient could visit a COVID-19 assessment centre in their community, and then visit a different facility emergency department — and the assessment data wouldn’t be available to the clinician in that venue.

“Virtual care is a technology that has expanded rapidly as an effective way to continue care while reducing the risk of exposure. This new way of delivering care will continue post-COVID-19,” notes Pagliaroli. “It requires rethinking; the visibility to the data informing the practice and the infrastructure that needs to be in place.”

For 40 years, Cerner has worked at the intersection of health care and information technology to connect people and systems globally. The company believes data needs to deliver insight, insight triggers action and action produces outcomes. Its tools, such as the HealtheIntentSM data intelligence platform, are supporting the clinical, financial, and operational areas of a hospital or health system — not only during this pandemic, but also into the future.

Cerner has been called upon to provide assistance globally. The US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) both turned to Cerner for help with their COVID-19 response. They needed a centralized way to gather information and disseminate it to hospitals while maximizing efficiency. “In just a few weeks, we put together a system that allowed for the aggregation and sharing of data,” says Michael Billanti, Director of Population Health at Cerner Canada.

This new way of delivering care will continue post-COVID-19. It requires rethinking; the visibility to the data informing the practice and the infrastructure that needs to be in place.

Sonia Pagliaroli, Chief Nursing Officer at Cerner Canada

Integrated solutions for better outcomes

In the UK, Cerner’s Population Health Performance Dashboard took clinical and social data and helped with planning and capacity issues in various regions across the country. This allowed the NHS to understand what they needed to do to make decisions related to COVID-19. The work is ongoing.

“In the US there was a huge recognition that a centralized way of getting data was needed around issues like ventilators, staffing, capacity, and testing so that it can be digested and distributed for decision support and research,” explains Billanti. Itsdigital platform supports population health solutions by aggregating data from multiple sources to apply across entire health care systems.

Island Health, Vancouver Island’s local health authority, extended the integrated electronic health records (EHRs) during COVID-19 to assist clinicians when managing and diagnosing cases through its Cerner Millennium® and patient portal HealtheLifeSM platforms. Health care providers could connect with the community to provide in-home patient care, monitoring in difficult-to-reach areas with public health surveillance for contact tracing.

“It’s all about open, interoperable sharing,” says Billanti. “That single electronic health record ensures continuity of care whether the patients were seen by their family physician, a COVID-19 assessment centre, or monitored at home.”

Cerner’s key differentiation is its open, non-proprietary platform that’s available to multiple venues of care. “Moving into the recovery phase of this crisis, we need to focus on the well-being of our health care workforce. Health information technology can be leveraged to support clinician efficiency, providing information to deliver the highest quality care,” says Pagliaroli. As Billanti points out, “There’s a transition happening from reactive thinking to proactive thinking about how we manage health care data.”

Canadians can be assured that effective data management will help lead the way.

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