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BI’s March to Health Care: Fits and Starts

Perhaps nowhere is the promise of data analytics greater than in health care – where reams of data in newly evolving clinical information systems provide the basis for what could be valuable long-term analysis of cost and care outcomes. Unfortunately, progress has been hit and miss. As Jim Ericson, editorial director of Information Management, points out in his article “BI’s March to Health Care”, clinical health care data is heavily dependent on interpretations of care practices that change over time – particularly as diagnostic tools and medications improve. Thus, static snapshots of clinical outcomes at any given point in time may not have as much value as they would in other industries.

“We generate and use data like any other industry, but heath care does not lend itself to the use of discrete data because the outcomes are necessarily fuzzy and ongoing,” says Dick Gibson, M.D., the CIO at Legacy Health, an integrated network of six hospitals with research and other facilities in Portland. “Airlines have seats, schedules and know if you landing on time. In health care, we know you’re alive but the big money goes to broad sets of descriptive terms around patient care that are very qualitative.”

For BI and performance management to have meaning, these terms need to be unified and reconciled in their definition and accuracy. This can be a challenge in an industry that lacks standards and common data categories and definitions. “The challenges of data quality are multiplied by the number of codes and procedures managed in systems for lab results, pharmacy, check-in and other processes. Even within a single institution, the lack of standards, or ironically, the fact there are far too many, creates huge data quality and integration challenges.

As Ericson points out, however, “it’s a challenge providers must meet, both in response to consumer demand and regulatory interest in keeping down costs. That’s why information systems are increasingly required to bring a compliant and cohesive view to inpatient and outpatient facilities, right down to the bedside of the patient at the point of care. The approaches to meeting this challenge vary by hospital, with some opting for a single-vendor approach, while other turn to multiple software partners. The evolution of provider software companies offers an interesting comparison to other industries, which have adopted enterprise resources planning tools only to find the tools lacking. Nonetheless, the data warehouse in the clinical setting is here to stay.”

Read the rest of Jim’s informative article here – and see how he discusses how to implement BI effectively in a health care arena.

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