The rise of digital data in healthcare is fueling the industry into new, long-lasting potential for adapting to the technological revolution and finding ways to help more patients, more effectively.
Data in healthcare is by no means new – patients have filled out forms to keep medical history and notes on file for a long time. What is new about patient data is the way it is stored in digital spaces, the way it is accessible to physicians across the globe, the way it streamlines patient care in any situation, the capacity it has for patient-physician interaction and the opportunities it is opening to extracting important insights from big data analysis.
As data becomes more prominent in healthcare, physicians and analysts wonder about the best way to collect data from patients. Whether to ask the same set of questions per visit to garner broader general insights or whether to collect intimate details per visit to create rich and robust patient profiles.
The difference between the two approaches to data is defined as structured or unstructured data. Let’s take a look at each.
Structured vs Unstructured Data in Healthcare
What is structured data?
Structured data recorded in Electronic Health Records (EHR) asks the same questions in the same format every time. It includes patient demographics, problem list, medication list, medication allergy list, patient vitals, smoking status, family health history and lab results.
What is unstructured data?
Unstructured data is information logged that does not follow a particular format. It probably does not line up perfectly with other patients’ data because physicians or medical professionals are recording notes about specific details that are relevant to the patient’s case.
Benefits of structured data in healthcare
Data collected in a uniform format makes for easy uploading to EHR, where the electronic application registers the format, extracts the information and fluidly transitions the data into a larger system where it can be analyzed and used to extract important insights.
Codes were introduced in healthcare to make the industry’s communication more fluid, especially with insurance companies. By assigning codes to conditions and medical experiences, claims can be processed clearly and timely. Structured data makes it easy to code the information and get it into the right system.
Benefits of unstructured data in healthcare
Unstructured data provides more context around patient data which helps a physician connect dots across notes and upon history review, can paint a more accurate picture of patient health.
While unstructured is criticized for its lack of organization and difficulty or inability to translate to EHR, collecting more contextual information per patient can help physicians understand residual effects of treatments, new symptoms previously unrelated to diagnoses or a clearer understanding of the holistic picture of a patient’s health.
The future of healthcare and data
Arguments for both types of data are strong. Structured data makes finding patient profiles, diagnoses and next steps easier and more efficient while also allowing big data insights to be drawn.
Unstructured data, on the other hand, optimizes personal patient care and if experts can find a way to code or organize the unstructured data, it could lead to big healthcare breakthroughs.
Mercedes Transcription works to transcribe structured or unstructured note dictation to optimize the data style your practice wishes to use to improve patient care and satisfaction.
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