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Giving Voice to Data: The Key to Healing

March 21, 2017 by Hanna Gordon, PhD, Director of Research and Informatics

Big Data in Wound Care
Author Stephen Few once said “Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” Stephen’s statement holds true in many fields of study, but in the field of wound care, data with a voice can often be the key to patient healing.

Health informatics is an interdisciplinary field that grew from the intersection of statistics, computer science and health sciences. The primary goal of the field is to apply quantitative methods to the study of health by capitalizing on advances in computing and technology. We use the information generated by our Wound Care Centers® to improve the clinical care process and patient outcomes through data driven discovery.

At Healogics, we work hard to capture the most accurate and thorough data possible on all wound types.  As a result, we have the largest repository of chronic wound data in the country with information on well over one million wounds. In addition to using data to improve the care process we are able to use our information to advance the field of wound science through advanced analytics. The advantage of big data is particularly apparent when it comes to rare and infrequently occurring ulcer types. While a single clinic may only see one or two of a certain ulcer per year, in the aggregate we are able to use the scale of our data to obtain a statistically relevant sample size. One example of this approach is seen with sickle cell ulcers.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a group of inherited disorders that negatively affects red blood cells. Approximately one to three percent of the U.S. population is affected by SCD, and among those, anywhere from 2.5 to 25 percent suffer from leg ulcers. These leg ulcers are the most common skin manifestation of SCD that results in significant morbidity. With such a small percent of the population suffering from the disease, information surrounding SCD leg ulcers is limited.

It can be challenging for researchers to obtain a large enough sample to conduct meaningful population level analyses. However, across the Healogics clinical sample, we were able to identify over four hundred sickle cell ulcers over a two-year period. Along with our research partners, we are able to use this data to address questions such as:
  • What are the demographic characteristics of sickle cell ulcer patients?
  • What are the predictors of healing?
  • How do these ulcers differ from other ulcer types?
We will be presenting findings from this study at the Foundation for Sickle Cell Research Annual Symposium on April 29.

How can you contribute to the research process? Administrative health care data can be challenging to access and use. Because the providers focus is on providing high quality patient care, it is easy to overlook data entry and documentation. However, every time you enter data, you have the potential to advance the practice of wound care and contribute to improved outcomes of all wounded patients. If you are a physician or clinician at a Wound Care Center, it is crucial that information quality and consistency are a top priority. Accurate data capture and entry at each step of the process will lead to continued progress in patient care.

Without complete data on each patient and their care process, it is nearly impossible to use our information to conduct meaningful research. Fields in the Electronic Medical Record that may seem of limited importance for decision making today, can have a profound impact on downstream clinical research tomorrow. Whether you are caring for a rare ulcer type or a commonly occurring chronic wound, together, we have the potential to continually advance the practice of wound care to meet the ever-expanding needs of the patients we serve.

 
Hanna-Gordon.png Hanna Gordon, PhD, is the Director of Research and Informatics at Healogics Inc. Dr. Gordon is committed to improving patient outcomes and health care delivery through data driven discovery and quantitative analysis. Her research is driven by a belief in the transformative power of data to meet the needs of an evolving health system. She has over seven years of experience in health informatics including work in population health, health policy, and private industry. She received her PhD from Florida State University.

 









Sources
  1. Issue Number: Volume 9 Issue 3 - April 2015
    ‚ÄčAuthor(s): Jayne R. Penne, PA-C; Benjamin M. Goodman III, MD: & Ian A. Chen, MD, MPH
  2. Kara-Marie H. Delaney, Karen C. Axelrod, Ashley Buscetta, Kathryn L. Hassell, Patricia E. Adams-Graves, Catherine Seamon, Gregory J. Kato, and Caterina P. Minniti “Leg Ulcers in Sickle Cell Disease: Current Patterns and Practices” Hemoglobin. 2013; 37(4): 10.3109/03630269.2013.789968.