Data miners might as well dig for fool's gold if they don't standardize clinical records databases.
"What does it cost to do a specific procedure in a clinic vs. in a hospital? You really can't do that (comparison) without standard terminology," says Jack Bowie, vice president for sales and marketing at Apelon, a medical software developer based in Ridgefield, Conn. "One of the main drivers toward the utilization of standard terminologies . . . is to analyze the resulting data."
Apelon last month signed a long-term deal with the AMA to make the Current Procedural Technology code set more amenable to integration with electronic medical records and physician order entry systems. The AMA regularly updates its proprietary CPT codes, and the next update will facilitate the building of massive clinical data warehouses.
In another standardization effort, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has awarded a $1.3 million grant to the Practice Partner Research Network to demonstrate how data mining, clinical information systems and practice management can improve the quality of ambulatory care.