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New regional health report looks at data behind diagnosis

Jun 24, 2019

 

A Rochester organization has released a report with new details about the health of residents in Monroe County and 12 surrounding counties in the Finger Lakes and western New York.

The Rochester Regional Health Information Organization has been collecting data from patient visits to doctors’ offices for the last few years.

Data from the Rochester Regional Health Information Organization's community health indicators report finds that more than 70 percent of people in a 13-county area of western New York and the Finger Lakes were classified as overweight or obese in records from their doctors' appointments.
Credit Rochester Regional Health Information Organization

Now, the analysis of the first full year of that information has been made public. Jill Eisenstein, the president and CEO of Rochester RHIO, said the report compiles information that hasn’t been available before.

“It’s fascinating to see this; it’s just a totally new source that we have today for clinical data that will really provide great insights going forward.” 

Eisenstein said the data in the report doesn’t just look at yes-or-no questions, like “Does this patient have diabetes?” It also looks at the numbers behind the diagnosis: What’s the person’s hemoglobin level? What’s their blood pressure reading?

That helps track changes over time, Eisenstein said, because researchers have access to more nuanced data. In the past, the only way to get such detailed information was to run a study that followed a small group of people, she said.

The organization has already found higher-than-expected levels of smoking in the region, as well as high blood pressure rates below the national average, said Eisenstein.

More than 70% of adults were classified as “overweight” or “obese,” according to the report.

The new data also offers public health officials a way to get more accurate information on things that patients tend to misreport, like drug use and mental health difficulties, Eisenstein said.

“It’s very stigmatized data in our society, and sometimes it’s not documented in ways that are easy for us to find,” she said.

Responding to questions about patient privacy concerns, Eisenstein said, “We take this very, very seriously.”

“We follow the rules of identification and de-identification,” Eisenstein said. “We work very diligently to make sure that everything we do meets the legal requirements, and we protect patient privacy.”

Eisenstein said the RHIO will share its findings with county public health departments and other organizations that can use it to offer better health care to people in the region.