Is Your Health Data Unstructured? – Enabling an AI Powered Healthcare Future

Posted on June 22, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you asked a hospital IT executive how much of their data is unstructured data, most of them would reasonably respond that a lot or most of their data was unstructured. If you asked a practice manager or doctor how much of health data is unstructured, they’d likely respond “What do you mean?”

The reality is that most doctors, nurses, practice managers, etc don’t really care if their data is structured data or not. However, they should care about it and more importantly they should care about how they’re going to extract value out of the structured and unstructured data in their organizations.

The reality in healthcare, as the above tweet and image point out, is that much of the data we have and are going to get is going to be unstructured data. Our systems and software need to handle unstructured data in order to facilitate the AI powered healthcare future. That’s right. An AI powered healthcare future is coming and it’s going to be built on the back of structured and unstructured healthcare data.

I think the reason so many healthcare providers are concerned with this AI powered future is that they know the data they currently have is not very good. That’s going to be a problem for many organizations. Bad data is going to produce bad AI powered support.

We shouldn’t expect technology to solve our problems of bad data but, technology will amplify the state of your organization. If your organization is doing an amazing job creating high quality health data, then the AI powered future will propel you in amazing ways to be an even better organization. However, the opposite is also true. If your health data is poor, then these new AI powered systems are going to highlight how poorly your organization is being run. I get why that’s scary for many people.

This should be one of the big lessons we take away from the EHR experience. Healthcare organizations with poor workflows hoped that implementation of an EHR would help them fix their workflows. Instead of EHR fixing the workflows it just highlighted the poor workflows. Technology accentuates and accelerates your current state. It doesn’t usually fix it. You have to fix your organization and workflows first and then use technology to accelerate your organization.

The next step after that is what Rasu Shrestha highlighted when he said, “How can we move from ‘doing digital’ to ‘being digital’. Let’s not replicate analog workflows. Let’s rethink!”