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October 17, 2017

AMA Launches Data Framework Effort

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The American Medical Association is launching a big data initiative intended to forge what it calls a “common data model” currently missing from the health care system.

The Integrated Health Model Initiative seeks to create a “shared framework for organizing health data” while “refining data elements to those most predictive of achieving better outcomes,” the AMA said in unveiling the initiative this week.

Early participants in the health model initiative include the American Heart Association and the American Medical Informatics Association along with health information technology specialist Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Intermountain Healthcare.

The nation spends an estimated $3 trillion annually on health care, and generates vast amounts health data, noted AMA CEO James L. Madara in a statement announcing the health data initiative. “Yet some of the most meaningful data – data to unlock potential improvements in patient outcomes – is fragmented, inaccessible or incomplete.”

The data initiative “will help the health system learn how to collect, organize, and exchange patient-centered data in a common structure that captures what is most important for improving care and long-term wellness, and transform the data into a rich stream of accessible and actionable information,” Madara added.

The AMA is currently focused on developing a validation process for determining and applying appropriate clinical frameworks. Participants will provide feedback that would be used to specify data elements and relationships. Those submissions would then go through a validation process to determine clinical applications, AMA said.

The next step would be specifying a model to encode information in the health data model. Configurations of the framework and reference value sets could then be distributed via the health care platform, organizers said.

The initiative is particularly attractive to cognitive computing specialists such as IBM’s Watson unit. “This important and novel initiative aligns with our mission to help healthcare providers make essential connections and gain confidence in the decisions they make,” noted William Kassler, deputy chief health officer with IBM Watson Health.

Organizers assert that a common data model with validated elements could accelerate the development of improved data organization, management and analytics. “This collective effort will foster patient care models that achieve better outcomes, as well as technical innovations to address poor interoperability, cumbersome or inadequate data structures, and an overload of point-and-click tasks that dampen clinician morale,” AMA said.

A common data model also would address the explosion of unstructured data which is estimated to account for nearly 80 percent of healthcare information, It includes a hodge-podge of physicians’ notes, sensor data from medical devices, lab results, X-ray and MRI images along with clinical and financial data. Add to the mix are several layers of patient privacy and medical IT regulations.

The initiative will initially focus on clinical areas such as asthma, diabetes prevention, hypertension management and “defining wellness.” New areas will be added to the online platform throughout 2018.

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