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Turning Big Data Into Useable Health Data:
How Healogics Cracked the Code for the Advancement of Treating Chronic Wounds
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (September 18, 2015) – More is not always better, especially in the healthcare industry. Too much data sometimes can be crippling for healthcare organizations and physicians if it’s not harnessed, assessed and utilized in a focused manner. Healogics Inc., the nation’s largest provider of advanced wound care services, has created a model for using its collected data in the development of treatment plans for chronic wounds that it hopes can serve as a “best practice” for other healthcare specialties.
 
More than 6.7 million[1] people suffer from chronic wounds and over $50 billion[2] a year is spent in the U.S. caring for chronic wounds. This is why Healogics has spent years developing its proprietary wound care database, i-heal®, to track wound care and positively impact outcomes. The company has invested approximately $15 million in the past four years to hone its data collection and analysis so it can provide better, more efficient care – it’s that important, states company CEO Jeff Nelson.
 
Through this data-collection process, Healogics learned that there are three crucial, interconnected elements to turning big data into useable health data: Standardization, Integration, and Physician Training.
 
Healogics Wound Care Centers® have operated with a disease-specific registry for nearly 20 years and have recorded millions of unique patient visits with detailed outcome data. The sophistication of the data collected has improved over time, and a detailed application of evidence-based clinical algorithms is used to guide wound care treatment decisions. This uniquely positions Healogics to identify opportunities for improved patient care and implement them throughout multiple sites across many geographies in real-time.
 
“Early in our data collection we realized that physicians describe size, severity and types of wounds very differently, even wounds that are similar. This disparity is a result of doctors’ varied backgrounds, experiences and personal interpretations, which is perfectly normal but not very useful when trying to categorize wounds for better disease management,” said Dr. Scott Covington, chief medical officer for Healogics.
 
Creating standardization was the essential first step to making the data useable for Healogics and its nearly 800 centers. The data is designed around patient flow, with collection beginning at the intake point. Severity scoring and wound classification systems were determined, as well as consistent definitions of terminology. The Healogics technology team also minimized the number of “other” or free-text fields on the i-heal data-entry system, opting for drop-down menus instead. The data elements also are Meaningful Use Certified.
 


[1] L.E.K. Consulting 2014 Market Analysis “Market Sizing and Assessment of Outsourced Outpatient Wound Care”
[2] WOUNDS 2012; 24(1): 10-17 Wound Care Outcomes and Associated Cost Among Patients Treated in US Outpatient Wound Centers: Data from the US Wound
 
 
“The combination of a national disease-specific dataset within a captive care setting, in this case Healogics Wound Care Centers, and algorithmically driven treatment strategy is unique in the American healthcare setting,” explained Dr. Covington, during a recent Wound Care Big Data Summit hosted by the company at the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md.
 
With Healogics growth through mergers and acquisitions, another aspect of attaining useable data was the integration of various databases and legacy information. However, Dr. Covington states, “the variety of databases are not as challenging as converting and re-categorizing the data definitions.” Integration of the procedures and protocols continues to be just as important as integrating the technology used.
 
The final piece to big data success was physician training, and continued reinforcement of the training. Most importantly, Healogics is training doctors on how to think in order to ensure the standardization remains, and not simply training in how to use the data collection platform. Every Healogics physician is trained and tested to ensure consistency; they are continually driven back to the same definitions of a wound, condition or treatment. The doctors and clinicians are even trained on how to measure and photograph wounds the same so that the images in the database are standardized.
 
Healogics sponsored the Wound Care Big Data Summit as a first step toward broader awareness of the chronic wound epidemic. Only 0.1 percent of National Institutes of Health’s funding budget is dedicated to research for advanced wound prevention and treatment, the same amount spent researching some very rare diseases with low occurrences.
 
Also, Healogics currently is collaborating with Stanford University on a research project to determine if data mining can predict outcomes, for example predicting at a patient’s first visit whether a wound will be problematic so that aggressive treatment can start earlier. The company has provided access to the data from its Wound Care Centers to Stanford University for the study.
 
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About Healogics
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Healogics is the nation’s largest provider of advanced wound care services. Healogics and its affiliated companies manage more than 800 Wound Care Centers® in the nation and saw more than 234,000 patients in 2014 through a connected network of partner hospitals and Wound Care Centers, academic medical centers, and other post‐acute sites. Healogics utilizes an evidence‐based systematic approach to chronic wound healing to treat an underserved and growing patient population. A fund managed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a private investment firm, is the majority shareholder of Healogics. For more information, please visit www.healogics.com.