The emerging challenges of integrating genomic data with electronic health record data
Electronic health records (EHRs) have played a major role in reshaping medical practices in the United States. EHRs have shaped the way how clinicians and healthcare providers exchange patient health information (PHI) between institutions and within department. EHRs has enabled healthcare providers to quickly access medical records from anywhere, exchange data securely, and make updates to patient charts in real time. This efficiency has reduced the amount of paper trail generated and presents up to date information about a patient. Despite its ubiquitous use in many healthcare systems, paperwork is still routinely use in parallel to EHRs. However, paperwork cannot adequately document the type of information generated from medical genomic data. It is without a doubt that medical genomics will play a vital role in the diagnosis of inherited disease and cancer. Combining genomic and EHR data together can strengthen clinical insight into a patient’s disease state. Integrating medical genomic data with a patients EHRs make sense because the data remains together. The use of genomic data in medicine is a new and emerging field and presents significant challenges to an outdated EHRs system.
The challenge of integrating genomics to EHRs
Among the relevant challenges and limitation of integrating genomic data with EHRs for research and clinical use is the burden of data security and storage. Genomic data can generate from a few megabytes upwards to gigabytes of data. If considering the integration of a patient’s entire DNA sequence, the data storage requirement will require upwards of terabytes of data. This can be challenging to integrate this type of data with EHRs. Another requirement is that EHRs must be built to handle this large amount of data. Access efficiency such as data retrieval and analysis needs should be integrated with EHRs to make such data useful for clinical or research purposes. For this reason, it makes sense to integrate genomic data and EHRs.
A second challenge to integrating genomic data with EHRs is data security. Data security breach is an important concern. Even though EHRs require very strict security requirements, the addition of genomic data can add another layer of required security measure. This stems from the risk of exposing a much larger amount of data if the EHRs are compromised. The nature of genomic data can account for many identifiable patient features. Genomic data can provide the patients sex, ethnicity, clinically relevant genetic risk factors, and disease prognosis. Securing this type of data can be extremely challenging in a small healthcare system that may lack the resources or expertise.
As medical research advances, the use of genomic medicine in healthcare will significantly increase in the coming decades as the cost of DNA sequencing comes down. The ideal situation may be one that integrates genomic data and EHRs. This would give the broadest access and availability to use genetic data to enhance patient care. As a healthcare institution or even smaller clinics start to consider use of genomic, understanding the complexity of storing and properly securing such data should also be a part of the discussion. If you are considering expanding the use of your institutions EHRs, please contact our specialist at 800-765-7510 to discuss how Datafied can help you with data infrastructure challenges.