Distinguished Service Awardee Describes the Art of an Interventionalist Capturing Data

H. Vernon “Skip” Anderson, MD, FACC, doesn’t particularly enjoy the word “data-mining.” “In the medical world data-mining is actually a bit of a negative term,” says Anderson. “People try to avoid using it. In other aspects of life it likely has some positive connotations, but in the medical world, data-mining is usually done by people who sit down with a big pile of data and search through it looking for something until the small bits and differences numerically look impressive. But clinically, in terms of patient care, these numerical data often aren’t really significant or substantial.”

Living in Houston, TX, for the past 24 years and working at the University of Texas as an interventional cardiologist, a career path that he jokingly says allows him to “help patients by putting things inside their hearts, which always seemed fascinating and exotic to me,” Anderson has had to confront such presumptive conclusions ever since he first developed an interest in capturing and examining patient-level data and information. A cardiologist with a background in electrical engineering and computer science, Anderson understands the very complex nature of interpreting reports on outcomes research, quality of care issues, and health information technology, and then getting into the dense maze of how such information is transmitted, received and handled by machines. In fact, his skill at navigating all of these areas has made him not only an integral resource for the ACC’s NCDR data analytics efforts, but also earned him ACC’s Distinguished Service Award at ACC.14 in Washington, DC.

As easy as it could be to reduce large amounts of accumulated data and information into faceless statistical outcomes, investigators such as Anderson understand that the number and percentages always trace back to actual people, whose treatments regularly rely on all the scraps and breadcrumbs of data the researchers have assembled.

According to Anderson, in today’s technologically advanced world, health care professionals should be compulsive about examining on a regular basis the care they provide to patients. “That means recording and capturing what we do, and then reviewing it and trying to form some sort of opinion as to how useful it’s all been,” he notes.

Technology has made the capturing and reviewing easier, but the interpretation sometimes more challenging. “Some of the questions that need to be asked: Was it done on the right kind of patients? How did they do with it? Should we be doing things differently? If so, what would we do differently and what would we expect to come out of that? These are the things that give me energy to get out bed in the morning,” he says.

Keywords: Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications

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