Like those in other industries, organizations in the healthcare field are trying to find ways to make best – and smart – use of all the data they collect. But healthcare organizations face a unique set of challenges when it comes to making this vision a reality – even those turning to business intelligence (BI) and analytics.
A report produced by InformationWeek explores these challenges, provides an overview of BI and analytics-related products and services, and outlines five requirements for BI and analytics. Here’s a summary:
Top Challenges Taking Advantage of BI and Analytics
- Organizational structure: While large healthcare organizations often have the budgets, IT resources, and necessary infrastructure to make BI and analytics pay off, smaller practices aren’t as lucky. That said, large organizations can get waylaid by sprawling and disconnected business units that aren’t accustomed to seamlessly sharing data. Due to lack of insight across operations, healthcare providers aren’t aware, for example, when drug and other suppliers charge different prices to different units within a hospital for the same products and services.
Catalyst for change: For reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid, healthcare providers need better insight into costs and some are achieving that by using BI.
- Data integration: Healthcare providers need to unite data from an array of disparate systems and sources, including physicians and numerous departments. On top of that, they need to observe numerous regulations when it comes to handling data.
Proven solutions: Some organizations are addressing these issues by building data marts and warehouse, and by using tools that help integrate information in conformance with EHR system and health information exchange requirements.
- Data consistency and quality: In addition to data sets being dispersed throughout a healthcare organization, they often contain inconsistent or inaccurate data about patients, treatments, physicians, and suppliers. Moreover, each data set is structured differently, according to the design of the application holding it. As a result, it’s challenging – if not impossible – to query all systems with a single BI tool. These issues pose risks in providing patient care, and lead to higher operational costs as errors multiply. Ironically, many users fail to see the value in BI systems because they’re disappointed by faulty analysis, misleading reports, and other problems caused by this poor data quality.
Proven solutions: Some healthcare organizations are successfully using data-quality tools and master data management to address this issue. Others are taking steps to make sure information is consistent and integrated across all systems through data linking.
Considerations for Selecting BI and Analytics Tools
- Focus on people, not technology. Make sure the BI and analytics tools are suited for a healthcare environment and empower your people to make better use of data.
- Start small. Focus on quick wins that demonstrate the value of BI. And choose tools that don’t require much involvement from IT.
- Don’t get distracted by dazzle. While dashboards can look appealing, they’re no better than spreadsheets if they’re not easy for the average employee to use.
- Determine data refresh needs. Poll those who will be using the tools to understand how often they need data refreshed to make it useful. Then find a tool that supports that frequency.
- Keep data quality in mind. BI adoption will suffer if users aren’t confident about data quality so find tools that can help with data accuracy and consistency.
Healthcare organizations of all sizes recognize the need to make more intelligent use of their data. Ultimately, this capability will enable them to deliver quality healthcare at lower costs. To get there, they need to understand – and overcome – the typical challenges that accompany the use of BI and analytics.
How is your healthcare organization using BI and analytics? What challenges is it facing, or has it overcome, on its journey? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.