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What is longitudinal patient data? A brief explanation of how historical data is driving the future of healthcare

Healthcare is brimming with data – claims data, population health data, patient eligibility and payment data, prescription data – the list goes on. Few things in the industry function without data, but there’s still much to understand about the information available and how to leverage it. New uses of existing data are emerging, and with them, new opportunities to improve patient care, reduce healthcare costs, and more. So, what is longitudinal patient data?

What is longitudinal patient data?

Longitudinal data is information collected through a series of repeated observations of the same subjects over some extended time frame.

In healthcare, the subjects are patients and the extended time frame is their complete patient journey. Longitudinal patient data provides a full view of how a person has interacted with various aspects of healthcare – primary care, emergency visits, prescriptions, medication adherence, and more.

How to gain a full view of the patient health journey

Longitudinal patient data is made possible by extensive data collection coupled with data tokenization, curation, and a strict adherence to HIPAA and data privacy laws/regulations.

Data collection and tokenization

It takes years of data collection to have enough information to connect the patient journey. Meanwhile, all this information must be curated, aggregated, and standardized without jeopardizing patient security.

That’s where tokenization comes in. Tokenization assigns a random, unique string of characters to a data point. That string of characters is then assigned to the same data subject, and over time, there is a collection of data from across healthcare identified as, “123456” instead of “John Smith.” Of course, the string of characters is more complex, and sophisticated tokenization accounts for nuances of the same person such as “J. Smith” vs. “John S.” vs the full name. The result is a thorough, longitudinal record of the patient.

Longitudinal patient data breaks the silos that burden patient care. It’s a form of healthcare interoperability realized in a way that is tangible and highly impactful.

Accessing longitudinal patient data

Providers don’t have to build their own repository of longitudinal healthcare data. In approved therapeutic use cases, trusted data vendors can supplement provider EHR data with missing patient information. This creates a complete view of the patient’s health history in a secure, compliant manner, ensuring patient privacy is protected while enhancing the provider’s data access capabilities.

For example, without longitudinal patient data, a provider can only see what’s in their EHR. They don’t know if a patient was recently seen by a specialist or if they’re adhering to their medication unless the patient tells them. Similarly, a pharmacist can only fill the prescription they see, but they may be missing an opportunity to improve the patient’s medication adherence.

With Inovalon DataStream, authorized providers can connect our primary source dataset with their EHR to get the full picture of a patient’s health journey. During the patient encounter, the provider simply sends an inquiry to our system. Within seconds, their patient record platform will display the information that was missing, allowing the provider to deliver a more focused, patient-centric care experience.

The software does the heavy lifting. Providers no longer have to dig through separate claims data, demographic data, and treatment notes. Instead, they can access everything they need to know about the patient in one place.

Benefits of longitudinal patient data

In addition to saved time and greater access to patient information, longitudinal patient data offers more benefits.

Faster, better care delivery

Accessing patient information quickly is one thing. Using that information during every patient interaction to deliver more personalized, focused care is where longitudinal patient data has an impact.

Imagine three different patients with diabetes see the same provider on the same day. The provider sees one patient regularly, one patient every so often, and one patient is new to their practice. Despite the provider’s familiarity with each patient, they can treat each patient with the same level of care, giving unique options that meet the needs of each patient, and understanding their other conditions and medications. The data tells them everything they need to know.

This adds value to the primary care interaction, but it can be even more meaningful during critical care encounters when it’s important to know if a patient has allergies or medications that can affect their treatment options.

Enhanced research capabilities

Beyond individual interactions, repositories of longitudinal patient data benefit healthcare at the population level. Using deidentified tokenized data, researchers can study patients with certain medications or conditions to understand treatment patterns, the patient journey, and more.

Additionally, longitudinal patient records can be linked to socioeconomic indicators that can support health equity initiatives across healthcare.

See the full patient picture

Longitudinal patient data is transforming how healthcare works. It’s enhancing the value of patient-provider interactions, the speed and accuracy of research, and breaking the silos that have traditionally challenged advancements in healthcare data access and utilization.

Years of thoughtful collection and standardization have allowed us to get here, but the real question is, how can we best apply longitudinal patient data to further advance healthcare?

Discover what’s possible with detailed patient health history. Ask our team how Inovalon’s Data Cloud can support your data access, supplementation, and analysis needs.


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By Inovalon