With Big Data playing a more prominent role in healthcare operations across the country, many in the industry are now taking the next step in using data to drive decision-making.
Another name for this approach to decision making is sometimes called “information-driven healthcare.” This new era of data within the healthcare industry shows promise in its ability to improve patient care and make hospital operations more efficient.
Essentially, it involves finding useful information from all data within an organization, from clinical to administrative and financial.
This data, often contained in silos in many hospitals and other healthcare businesses, provides a powerful tool when used in combination and when put into the right hands.
To understand the challenges to implementing information-driven healthcare, it’s important to first understand the goals of the strategy.
Characteristics and Goals of Information Driven Healthcare
Healthcare organizations have heavily invested in technology to collect data. This has proven to be especially useful in managing electronic health records, which can help make processing payments easier and also improve patient outcomes with the real-time sharing of clinical information among medical professionals.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg on what data can do. As with other businesses, healthcare operations are discovering that collecting data is not enough. Analysis and interpretation of data – and creating actionable strategies based on what the data shows – is even more important.
Getting information to the right people in the right departments facilitates the proper use of health information, which in turn helps healthcare operations ensure patient safety as well as patient centered care that is effective, efficient, equitable and delivered in a timely manner.
Achieving these goals and becoming truly information-driven requires the sharing of information across all areas of an operation. For example, doctors and other medical professionals having information regarding outcomes based on their actions, both clinical and financial. Or those in finance understanding the clinical side of healthcare.
In short, operational decisions are better made when everyone across an organization is engaged. And useful information from data can help improve that level of engagement.
Becoming truly information-driven has challenges in an industry that has not fully embraced the technology or the processes needed to make the most of it.
Some of the issues include the following:
Information Technology Infrastructure
The first step in becoming information-driven is investing in the IT infrastructure needed to properly collect and analyze data. This includes advanced software for data mining, analytics, visualization and interpretation. It also requires professionals skilled in these areas, whether on staff or hired as a contractor.
Even with the right technology in place, many healthcare operations subject only a fraction of the available data to analysis and interpretation. Areas where there is a limited amount of information available include relationships between input costs and outcomes, the risks associated with certain patient populations, facilities that cannot sustain value-based healthcare and the total cost of everything that goes into delivering healthcare – supplies, labor and other components.
In most cases, information is not shared across various departments. This silo effect can lead to a person in one department not understanding the details in the process of another. Providing actionable information from data collected at both the administrative and clinical level can provide deep insights that can help drive better decision-making.
Lack of Participation
As noted above, healthcare data is used often in areas such as billing or sharing medical records between different departments. But a significant number of professionals still do not use data regularly. For example, only one-fourth of physicians regularly use data from a hospitals’ computer system, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In a sense, healthcare is going through what other businesses – such as retail and entertainment companies – went through in years past. The adoption of all the possible uses of data into healthcare will take time and the clearing of obstacles before its full potential is realized.