School of Public Health and Health Systems

Data management in Health Care

By Nicolas Huguet, CBB Biographer
July 21, 2015

Data has always been important in healthcare and this is increasingly true nowadays. Indeed, with more and more sensing and imaging devices being used to treat different diseases, there is a lot of data to manage. Data management is so important and time-consuming that most hospital clinics have at least one full time employee in charge of it.

Helen Chen, member of CBB, and her colleagues are working to improve data quality and automate data recording. They have been working in tight collaboration with professionals from the Renal Clinic in Grand River Hospital and the software they developed is currently being tested there.

One of the tasks of the person in charge of data management is to submit a report to the government in a certain format in order to receive funds for their care program. This task normally takes two weeks every month, but with the software’s help, this time is brought down to half a day. Not only does this software save time but it also improves data quality. The most common problems with data quality today are that data is regularly lost, omitted in the report or false. This can sometimes have dire consequences for the patient’s health, but, to a lesser extent, it can also cost the clinic a lot of money. The software can find inconsistencies in the data recorded and present a clear report to the data manager on why an inconsistency was found. He can then correct the error in the source data.

Helen Chen says better data management can also lead to a better prediction of which treatment is optimal for a particular patient based on past cases. This kind of analysis requires a trustworthy database which is what Helen Chen’s software is helping to achieve.

Another current issue in healthcare is patient engagement and empowerment. Rehab is one particular area of healthcare that suffers greatly from lack of patient engagement. After an operation, most patients are referred to rehab but less than 20% finish rehab and many never even get there at all. There are a limited number of rehab clinics and the physiotherapists are already taking care of as many patients as they can.

To solve these problems, Helen Chen and her colleagues have developed a wearable device that can be used at home by patients going through rehab. It can pick up the heart rate during an exercise and send data to the physiotherapist. This will enable him to better track the patient’s progress and he can easily communicate a change in rehab exercises directly to the patient through this device. In addition, it can give feedback to the user on how he is doing and can give him instructions on how to adapt his exercise based on heart rate monitoring. If something seems wrong, it can launch a call to the patient’s physiotherapist and he can speak with the patient to see what’s wrong and he can easily trigger a 911 call if needed. This device improves patient engagement and the quality of the treatment by giving the patient a more personalized care. It also is time-efficient and will allow physiotherapists to treat more patients. A pilot program for this device is currently being led in China and the first results are promising.

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University of Waterloo

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