Transforming cardiology programs with data-driven decisions: A Q&A with top Q-Centrix experts

By Q-Centrix | February 15, 2022

As the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease kills upwards of 650,000 people each year and results in an annual economic burden of $363 billion in health care costs and lost productivity on the job, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Amid this urgent demand for better preventions and treatments, there is an enormous opportunity for optimizing heart care with data-driven approaches to clinical programs and processes. 

For this special Q&A blog installment, we invited Q-Centrix cardiology expert and Manager of Client Services, Jennifer Moore, MSN, RN, and Vice President of Enterprise Services, Eric Crites, to explore the challenges and opportunities for advancing clinical data management in the cardiology service line. 

Q: What key challenges do health systems generally run into when trying to better leverage their cardiology clinical data? 

Jennifer: I’ve seen the barriers to data-driven care improvement from multiple vantage points throughout my career. As a chest pain coordinator working inside the hospital, I dealt first-hand with the kinds of data management resource constraints that many hospitals face. Unfortunately, too often, health care facilities expend a lot of time and energy upfront doing the data abstraction necessary just to fulfill their mandated reporting requirements, leaving little left to dive deeper and truly utilize this vast amount of information for improvement purposes. 

Eric: In addition to the workforce challenges, there are significant technology limitations. We’ve learned from our partner community that performing their required cardiovascular data reporting, each uses an average of three different submission platforms. This means that the people who oversee or manage this data must curate, engage, and interpret it in three different ways, which siloes the data and creates fidelity and integrity issues throughout the system. This is why at Q-Centrix we put such an emphasis on quality assurance and the fidelity of the data. When clinicians are making real-time decisions about care, we want to make sure they have confidence in the information they’re using.  

Q: How can hospitals improve their cardiology clinical data management? 

 Jennifer: Building on what Eric said, instilling trust in your clinical data is paramount to having any meaningful discussions about improving processes, care, and outcomes. It is the main path to engaging with clinicians and other leaders about performance improvement. For example, consider the door-to-balloon time measure. If you can use your data to establish reliable performance benchmarks, you can figure out where your treatment delays are occurring. When your data is timely and accurate, your clinical teams trust it and you’re more likely to get their buy-in on any recommended changes. 

Eric: I totally agree. The data management burden in the cardiovascular space compounded by the staffing and resource constraints of the current health care environment make safeguarding the fidelity of this data both challenging and critically important. As health care leaders are tasked with simultaneously managing the pandemic and planning for the future, we’re hearing a mounting desire from our partners to get more from their data as they look ahead. A lot of this is simply getting over the common roadblocks for improving clinical data, which include siloed decision-making and a lack of centralized data governance. When a health system views quality improvement as critical to achieving its most important goals, and clinical data as its competitive advantage, a number of key outcomes become possible. These opportunities go beyond better patient care to include market-share expansion, physician engagement, and sustainable revenue growth. What you can begin to see is a true enterprise clinical data management strategy. 

Jennifer: That’s exactly right. When a facility has to resort to filling their abstraction needs with a rotating group of individuals who are not trained in abstraction, it is difficult to obtain the level of data integrity required to utilize the information effectively. Using skilled clinical data professionals safeguards a standardized process that results in accurate data.  

Q: What steps should hospitals be taking now toward ultimately realizing a more enterprise-level, data-driven approach? 

Eric: How you begin the transformation process depends on the hospital’s leadership and their appetite for change. Many of our partners are willing to ‘rip the bandage off’ because they’re confident a transformational change is needed and their leadership is fully committed to the vision. The vision will trickle down through the rest of the organization. The alternative option is a groundswell approach when the initiative isn’t driven by leadership. In these cases, a service line leader, quality manager, or any team member who understands the value of the data shares their vision with others in the organization. In this scenario, you are tactically focusing on specific areas where you can make a difference and find trusted ‘champions’ who will support your endeavors. The cardiology service line is an optimal space for this approach. Realizing a data-driven approach to clinical programs and processes  requires an ongoing effort. but it’s an area where Q-Centrix can be a partner in ushering in change. For example, our Advisory Solutions focuses on assessing health systems’ current quality initiatives and infrastructure to design a strategic roadmap that factors in clinical data integrity, governance, and other key pillars to achieving an enterprise data approach. 

Q: Is enterprise clinical data management an opportunity for only large hospitals and health systems? 

Jennifer: There are legitimate opportunities for large and small hospitals alike with respect to enterprise clinical data management. For example, we have two local hospitals that serve our area and the surrounding communities where I live. Their quality measurement of care is publicly available from their mandated reporting. Referring physicians and clinics in the surrounding area have access to this information. If the quality of care reported is superior at a hospital in a neighboring region, they refer patients there instead of the facilities in their own community. It’s not much for a patient to drive an extra 30 minutes or so for better care. On the other hand, if you’re a certified center of excellence for that type of care or have a reputation for doing it well, then you have a better chance of attracting and retaining a larger share of the patients in your community. This is a scenario that many small to mid-size hospitals face, and it can have a direct financial impact. It’s a clear case for pursuing an enterprise clinical data strategy. 

Eric: In that same vein, small and mid-sized hospitals can leverage an enterprise strategy for clinician recruitment. Say you’re looking to expand a certain service and need to recruit physicians skilled at doing it, you can use your data to show that you have the framework in place to perform it well. This will help to attract and hire the physicians who have the experience you need. 

Q: How can Q-Centrix help hospitals improve their cardiology clinical data management and enterprise approaches? 

Jennifer: As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen the barriers to data-driven clinical improvement from multiple vantage points, including in my current role. When I came to Q-Centrix, I gained access to an immense pool of expertise amassed from more than 1,100 clinical experts and 1,200 hospital partnerships plus the capabilities of the most advanced clinical data management tools in the market. This enables me to see cardiology data through a different lens—one focused on getting the most from your data. At Q-Centrix, our experts work as extensions of hospital departments to curate and analyze clinical data in a way that optimizes it for care and process improvements. Through our Enterprise Clinical Data Management platform, we’re able to extract, manage, and analyze this data consistently and at scale. 

Also, it’s our job to stay current with the latest reporting changes like updated measures and data definitions that hospitals are often unable to dedicate resources to, especially in an immense area like cardiovascular care.  

I’ll add that I’ve met few people as committed and enthusiastic about partnering with hospitals and health systems to unlock the value of clinical data as my Q-Centrix teammates. For me, it’s partly personal. My dad had two heart attacks and is living with atrial fibrillation, and my brother is living with chronic heart failure. So, I’m invested in making sure good decisions are being made for the sake of the patient and that we can be confident that best practices are truly best practices. 

Eric: I don’t have a clinical background like Jennifer, but I will add that I’ve always been fascinated with the industry’s slow adoption of data technology. Now, we’re seeing an exciting and aggressive uptick in the pace of adoption. It’s really motivating to be part of this change and—to some extent—influence it.  

Q: How do you see the use of cardiology clinical data evolving in the next five years? 

Eric: As many health systems are gradually refocusing on the long-term, we’re increasingly hearing interest in more inventive uses of their assets—including their data. At the same time, the demand for post-market drug and device evidence in real-world-use scenarios is growing as biotech and life science companies grow and innovate. Some analysts have projected this market to almost triple in size from more than $1.08 billion in 2020 to over $3.13 billion by 2027. Data-rich areas like cardiology are well-suited for real-world evidence opportunities. Hospitals able to tap into their data and have confidence in it’s research-grade use may be able to innovate faster and build reputations that will ultimately drive more patients through their system. 

About our experts:

As Q-Centrix Manager of Client Services, Jennifer Moore, MSN, RN, is responsible for clinical data accuracy and identifying quality improvement goals and opportunities with hospital and health system partners. Her past clinical experience includes serving as a Chest Pain Coordinator at a hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and an Emergency Room and Combat Flight nurse in multiple locations.  

Eric Crites leads Q-Centrix’s Advisory Solutions for assessing health systems’ quality program and enterprise clinical data management approaches and designing informed strategies for unlocking the value of clinical data. He has 15 years of experience in health information technology, including roles with major U.S. corporations.