Magazine Article | July 5, 2012

Stop Wasting Data

Source: Health IT Outcomes

By Vicki Amendola, Editor,

Breaking news! The healthcare industry is collecting more data than ever before! No kidding? I had no idea! Come on, let’s be real. The news that U.S. healthcare providers are collecting — and converting — digital data is as stale as yesterday’s bread. The concepts of big data, BI (business intelligence), and analytics are starting to grace more and more headlines in the industry today, but for whatever reason — be it cost, lack of infrastructure, or just pure confusion — providers still seem to be a little slow to adopt.

In the preceding pages of this magazine, we talk about many ways healthcare organizations can manage content — actual healthcare data collected in relation to every patient encounter — to their advantage. The application of big-data analytics should be the natural progression of the critical content path. And there should be no doubt that the application of analytics technology has the potential to further revolutionize the healthcare industry in terms of both cost containment and patient outcomes.

As a healthcare provider, you already understand that informed medical decisions are the primary critical component in treating your patients. Analytics tools will provide the support you need for treating your patients not just in the one-on-one setting, but also in understanding and managing entire patient populations. Providers can use analytics tools to learn about patient demographics, chronic conditions, and treatment outcomes. While this information can be powerful in a singular provider environment, imagine the magnitude of the potential impact that could be realized when multiple providers share this information — a benefit that HIE will surely support. This same logic can be applied to decision support. The ability to identify and understand trends over specific populations, conditions, or care strategies can help providers make better care decisions for each patient. Success in this area can lead to better patient outcomes, greater patient satisfaction and confidence, and higher quality scores.

And speaking of quality, chances are your facility does have a program or two in place to track quality initiatives and programs. BI and analytics tools can be powerful tools used to track everything from the occurrence of hospital-acquired infections to readmission rates. All of these considerations, from preventive care to quality assurance, can lead to improved provider revenue.

On the fence about whether or not healthcare analytics tools are worth your investment? Well, if improving quality and care are not enough motivation for you, perhaps a boost to your bottom line will be. Analytics tools can be used outside the realm of patient care in processes as far-reaching as managing materials inventory and your facility’s supply chain. By providing visibility into current on-hand inventory levels, as well as forecasting upcoming inventory needs based on patient data, you can lessen the financial burden of keeping excess inventory and avoid the potential cost of the unexpected “rush” order.

Analytics can also help with process improvement, yielding greater efficiency. For example, the use of data analytics during patient registration can automate much of the process. Not only does this have the potential to reduce man-hours, it can also support tasks such as determining a patient’s ability to pay or payment history, estimate treatment costs based on condition, and even report on that patient’s insurance eligibility.

We’ve come so far with our digital data initiatives that we’d be foolish to stop short now. Collecting data is meaningless if nothing is done with it. Don’t waste your data.