The amount of data created by healthcare organizations has grown astronomically in the last few years, yet the full power of that data is still waiting to be unleashed. Most data is collected but left either underutilized or not used at all. For example, the amount of data on social determinants of health is growing exponentially, while the integration of that data into EHRs is still trailing behind. Meanwhile, the combination of a massive wave of clinical work, swirling market forces, pressure from disintermediation, and difficult labor pains have created what we call the Big Squeeze. This is only accelerating the need to more wisely use the main underutilized resource: data. When fully integrated into a health system, data can be transformed into a powerful strategic asset, informing key stakeholders and empowering clinicians and caregivers to do their best work.
With industry headwinds forecast to continue for the near future, health systems need to capitalize on data and analytics to find hidden opportunities and freeze the squeeze. However, many health systems are not currently structured in a way that can support the use cases needed to improve their bottom line. Healthcare organizations should consider modernizing their business intelligence (BI) solutions for a holistic and real-time view of their internal operations to enhance data-driven decision-making. Modernizing BI can help turn burdensome and overwhelming data into an innovative tool, driving organizations forward.
Big Data, Big Opportunity
As data volume increases, improving organizational efficiencies cannot begin until the types of data are understood. Data can be broken up into the four Vs:
- Volume: The sheer amount of data is constantly growing, approaching 180 zettabytes by 2025. (30% of which is forecast to be healthcare-related.)
- Velocity: The speed at which data comes at us is faster than ever, particularly with the growth of automated Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
- Variety: Within healthcare, the various types of data are growing as well, both raw and structured. Videos and images also are playing a larger part in processes.
- Veracity: With more data coming in faster and in different types, trust is essential for increased optimization.
It is estimated that data wrangling takes over 80% of staff members’ time (a statistic that has been level for years), pulling them from more strategic and patient-facing work. When leveraged properly using modern tools, data can be a gold mine of insights. But when it is overwhelming, slow, or hard to find, it can become redundant, siloed, or both. This increases data volume without improving patient care or operational efficiency, much like empty calories for data systems. Healthcare has a plethora of different types of data across different departments. Modernized BI solutions help break down these barriers and streamline access to data across health systems. There is also a significant regulatory burden on staff and organizations when it comes to data use that takes up valuable time and resources. Fine-tuning these mountains of data to integrate into everyday workflows and aid in strategic decision-making is becoming a long-term goal for many health systems.
Turning Big Data Into Enterprise Wins
While data challenges are numerous, the possibilities are just as vast. When implemented properly, data can provide cross-functional, enterprise-wide insights to understand what and why things are happening at a specific moment in time. Valuable data provides leaders with the knowledge to improve for tomorrow, in turn pushing the organization forward. Real-time data can drive action, for example, by using predictive analytics to improve patient care when and where it’s needed. Data can uncover clinical and operational improvements to increase patient volume and decrease strain on staff. Getting analytical insights into the right hands at the right time is a critical initiative for any organization.
Data is a strategic asset. Treating it as such requires health systems to clearly articulate goals, milestones, and timelines (as well as KPIs). Building the foundation for BI modernization starts with constructing the right architecture. For large volumes of data, the cloud has become an incredibly viable solution, with the ability to scale up and down depending on needs. Additionally, it’s important to consider repeatability when it comes to both near- and long-term initiatives. Having a long-term mindset and broad strategy for organizational needs is vital when upgrading BI as it will help ensure that the modernization of today is scalable for the needs of the future. As more and more data are being leveraged to support innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), it is integral that BI supports these institutional objectives both now and in the future.
Building For Now And What's Next
While there are costs associated with modernizing BI, there are also opportunities to reduce ongoing spend and move forward enterprise initiatives that save costs or drive revenue using the new capabilities. One opportunity area is to streamline analytical products, particularly those that are self-service. Getting data to end users is important, but so is maintaining and rationalizing those data delivery methods over time. The upcoming Crystal decommission for Epic clients is an opportunity for organizations looking to reduce ongoing overhead and enhance the utilization of existing reporting capabilities. By consolidating and improving native system utilization, a welcome byproduct is often a reduction in licensing and maintenance costs.
Modernizing also optimizes data governance processes, helping lift some of the regulatory data burdens mentioned previously. The time it takes to respond to new regulatory requirements is drastically reduced with a clear, trusted source of data to pull from, which assists both reporting requirements and operational initiatives to improve performance. Additionally, these upgrades will elevate analytical capabilities across organizations, having a positive effect on both clinical and operational staff. Modern BI systems cut down on redundancies and siloed data while also creating opportunities for predictive analytics that can have a direct impact on the health and well-being of patients. Healthcare organizations that modernize their BI systems will have data as a true asset, helping to drive new innovations and informing strategic priorities for every department.
Healthcare is not the first out of the gate when it comes to modernizing enterprise analytics. It can learn lessons from other industries, such as personal finance or retail, and leverage comprehensive, cross-functional analytics to enhance clinical and financial performance. As the sheer volume and variety of data continue to grow, modernizing BI on top of a strong, scalable infrastructure is critical to every organization. Data can be a new form of currency when paired with an organization’s biggest asset: their people. Data and the tools to use it empower the people who know the most about care delivery and allows them to focus on what they do best. With the Big Squeeze continuing to bear down on the industry, now is the time for healthcare organizations to invest in solutions that ensure long-term innovation and future business growth.