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by Sam Pettijohn
Published on March 22, 2017

The responsibilities of academic medical centers (AMCs) extend beyond providing care to patients — they must also shape the minds of future health care leaders and advance medical research.

For AMCs, this translates to a broader goal of providing world-class tertiary care and quaternary care. This kind of high-level specialty care requires AMCs to be able to send and receive information from multiple venues of care, many outside their four walls.

In order to accomplish this, it is essential for AMCs to partner with modern and open health care information technology (HIT) suppliers.

A bird's-eye view of the AMC-HIT intersection

AMCs are accountable for some of the health care industry's most cutting-edge research. Having an interoperable platform enables the seamless flow of information throughout an organization and across the continuum of care. Being able to compile and analyze algorithms around multiple sources of data in a near real-time fashion can facilitate research that has the potential to change the face of the health care industry and save lives.

Every year, AMCs graduate nearly 17,000 physicians and clinical staff. They make up over 40 percent of charity care and account for 20 percent of all hospital admissions, surgical operations and outpatient visits. These figures suggest that contemporary and flexible HIT solutions like electronic medical records (EMRs) population health management tools and big data capabilities are essential for progress at AMCs. As the health care industry shifts toward value-based care, more AMCs are hooking onto this idea.

Among the options for open, modern HIT platforms is Cerner's Millennium® system. Black Book Market Research recently recognized Cerner's Millennium platform as the highest-rated EHR by executives from 440 academic and affiliated teaching hospitals.

Health care databases are an integral part of open, modern HIT

For AMCs seeking to leverage the collective insight from their residency programs and research practices, a database containing an aggregate of health care data can be a researcher's key to uncovering groundbreaking discoveries and innovation. When researchers have questions about what factors drive clinical decisions and how effective one treatment is compared to another, they turn to such a tool for the answers.

One way Cerner supports its clients is by collecting deidentified data from leading national health systems that choose to contribute for the betterment of the industry. All data is mapped, merged and organized so that it is a valuable resource for addressing research questions. In practical use, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University wanted to evaluate the impact of HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) on hospital readmissions. They pulled data on nearly 70,000 patients with a diabetic encounter and all corresponding lab tests and medications using Cerner's research database, Health Facts, and found that the relationship between patient readmission and HbA1c depends on the primary diagnosis. Diabetes patients who had HbA1c checked when they were first admitted were less likely to be readmitted, a discovery which has implications for the improvement of clinical workflow and patient care.

Despite the advantage of medical databases like Health Facts, only a few AMCs have access to them. For those that do, insight into real-world practice patterns, clinical decision making and care strategy is readily accessible. As more data are added to Health Facts, researchers can draw conclusions from trends in the data and identify new research opportunities. Their analysis can have implications for future health care practices and can lead to improved patient care.

Tools like Health Facts and other HIT solutions are designed to help AMCs and teaching hospitals develop and mature the next generation of health care leaders. It's these future physicians and researchers who will use technology to innovate solutions to challenges within the health care industry.

To get more insights from HIT leaders across the globe, download your free copy of Cerner's Perspectives.

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