by Tom Crameri
A lot of colleges, universities, and pro sports organizations use disparate athlete management (AMS) electronic medical records (EMR) systems. While doing so can provide some of the functionality needed to manage performance and health data, the divide can hamper collaboration, stifle interdisciplinary communication, and reduce the quality of care and service delivered to athletes.
In this article, we share six ways using a unified AMS and EMR platform like Smartabase overcomes such challenges and improves processes like injury mitigation and management, return to play, availability, and more for colleges and universities, pro sports teams, and military units.
#1 – CENTRALIZATION
When colleges and other organizations have decentralized AMS and EMR systems, members of the medical, sports science, and coaching staff have to dig for the information they need across several distinct data sources, and it’s hard to collaborate because not everyone is seeing the same thing.
When information is specific to a certain specialty like strength and conditioning, it’s more likely to be siloed, which reinforces the divisions between disciplines. Separating athletes’ health and performance data can also interrupt the return-to-play continuum of care for injured athletes and hamper communication between subject matter experts (SMEs), who will be reactive when issues arise because they don’t get the information they need in a timely manner to prompt more proactive intervention.
In contrast, putting a single AMS and EMR platform in place creates a one-stop shop for medical, performance, and health data that is readily accessible to all who need to see it, which brings roles and departments together around standardized information.
At the University of Texas, centralizing these two systems into one with Smartabase has made it easier for staff to deliver timely and personalized care to hundreds of student-athletes spread across many different sports.
#2 – REPORTING
With separate medical and performance repositories, information often remains stuck and static. In contrast, a complete EMR and AMS suite can make it alive and actionable with powerful reporting tools.
One of the most useful in college and pro sports is dashboarding, which allows staff to see the data in an intuitive, graphical way. Surveillance dashboards enable coaches to monitor athlete availability in real time, which is particularly helpful when trying to coordinate practices for large squads like football, in which many players can come in and out of the lineup from day to day.
Such big-picture displays can also be tied to automated alerts that notify key personnel when a player is injured so they’re better able to take the appropriate actions quickly. Real-time flagging can also notify the coaching staff when a player is presenting more than a certain number of risk factors so their training and recovery can be dialed in.
In a collegiate setting, the visualization features in an integrated AMS and EMR solution can provide athletic directors with overviews of injury surveillance and other metrics that give them a bird’s eye view of certain programs, or all sports combined.
The same goes for the chain of command in military implementations of a unified solution. Smartabase can overlay performance and injury data to help pinpoint when injuries occurred and how they might be related to certain training blocks or periods in the competitive calendar.
#3 – CUSTOMIZATION
One of the biggest limitations with a standalone EMR system is the way data is entered and presented is hard coded in because of insurance and billing requirements and vendors wanting to find a line of best fit for use in clinical settings. This makes it difficult to create a system that supports your organizations unique goals, workflows, and reporting needs.
Another challenge is that EMR deployments are often complex, high value, multi-year projects at large hospitals, medical practices, and health systems, leaving suppliers with little time to focus on the individual requests of sports organizations or military units. This means new or tailored features can take an extremely long time to be implemented and may never happen at all. You can’t make such changes yourself, meaning you’re usually stuck with clunky workarounds of limited functionality that doesn’t fully meet your needs or fit your day-to-day processes.
On the other hand, a platform that combines EMR and AMS functionality can be customized to your exact needs. For a college athletic department, the performance and medical staff can collaborate on ways to present student-athlete information in a way that informs a smooth and seamless continuum of care across all sports. For a club or Olympic committee such as US Ski & Snowboard, the way that data is handled can be made more specific to a certain sport. A system like Smartabase is totally customizable, from how information is logged to data analysis methods to how findings are presented to coaches, staff, and athletes in graphical dashboard displays.
Unique configurations can also be applied to flags, alerts, forms, questionnaires, and workflows in keeping with the best practices developed by the individual organization and how its subject matter experts do their jobs.
Educational programs such as Fusion Sport’s Smartabase Certification equip members of the performance staff with the knowledge needed to make many of these changes and customizations themselves. If they need additional assistance, experienced sports science consultants can jump in to assist.
#4 – ANALYTICS
Sports science can deliver impactful results when data is not only collected, collated, and presented to the relevant parties, but also analyzed.
When someone spots a potential trend, a single AMS and EMR system enables them to dive deeper and investigate further to see if their initial hypothesis is correct. If not, they can set up another model, re-run the numbers, and see if the system comes to a different conclusion.
It might not be possible to stop a trend from continuing, but perhaps changes to a team or individual’s programming can influence it in the right direction. It’s much more effective to do such useful analytical discovery when data scientists and other roles have access to a combination of athletes’ performance, wellness, and health information, rather than just a single dimension.
Such a well-rounded approach enables sports scientists to compare members of their team head-to-head in performance and recovery areas and to look at how current metrics are tracking against individuals’ own historical baselines, floors, and ceilings. Doing so can help to identify and weigh factors that could make it more likely for an athlete to get hurt.
Running an analysis might reveal that someone has been sleeping poorly for several days and is a couple of hours below their usual nightly total. By overlaying their performance data, you may see that their output in training and testing has also declined. Having access to their injury history via the EMR portion of the AMS platform might show that they were shortchanging their sleep before a previous incident.
This automatically creates a red flag in Smartabase so the coaching staff can see that this athlete is at a greater risk of injury and dial back their volume and intensity for a couple of days. Perhaps several other data sets present similar flags in two other risk factor variables. Re-running the analysis would then show if the issue has been resolved or needs to be flagged again for further attention.
Analysis can also be done on a broader scale. Several Fusion Sport clients have analyzed the injury data for their entire teams and then used the resulting insights to make wholesale changes to their programming. The ability to combine medical and performance data increases the depth of such analytics and allows staff to make more accurate data-informed decisions. An integrated AMS and EMR platform can also be integrated with third-party analytics tools for deeper dives into the statistical implications of athletes’ data.
#5 – INTEGRATIONS
One of the ways institutions like the University of Texas provide proactive care and service to their student-athletes is by capturing input from multiple devices that touch on every aspect of human performance.
If an individual was flagged for a recurring issue that compromised their readiness, such as sleep quality, they could be given a wearable that more closely monitored their recovery. After a set period of time, the sports science team could check their numbers again to see if they’d improved their sleep. It’s the ability of a combined AMS and EMR to integrate with multiple devices and then put their data into actionable workflows that makes such rapid interventions possible.
There are more devices available than ever before to capture everything from athletes’ internal and external load to performance testing data to real-time wellness information. But if these stay as standalone solutions, their usefulness to performance and medical staff remains limited, and it’s difficult to unlock the full potential of the data by collating, analyzing, and reporting on it.
An all-in-one AMS and EMR platform like Smartabase provides integration points with software, devices, and apps in every category of human performance optimization. This enables staff to take more variables into account when making decisions about programming, recovery, or health. In the case of wearables, integration provides consistent daily data.
#6 – COMPLIANCE
A significant challenge in utilizing distinct AMS and EMR systems is that the professionals who need to see certain elements of an athlete’s information can’t because in an effort to protect individuals’ privacy, the EMR system has all-or-nothing access privileges.
In some cases, an SME might ask for information from a colleague in good faith, but the way that it’s collected and shared from separate data sources potentially violates HIPAA standards, putting individuals and the organization at risk. In college sports, sharing student-athlete data in such a way could also breach NCAA regulations.
With a HIPAA-compliant integrated AMS and EMR platform such as Smartabase, a system administrator can grant role-based access so specialists like physical therapists can see injury data, sports psychologists can view mental health information, and so on. This way, domain experts view only what’s relevant to their specialty, and nothing that they don’t need to, which allows them to do their own job and collaborate more effectively with their colleagues without compromising athlete privacy.
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