Solving today’s top healthcare challenges
Push has finally come to shove and the healthcare industry is undergoing a major transformation. It simply has to: The United States spends trillions1 of dollars on healthcare each year, yet struggles to provide high-quality care to all of its citizens. Healthcare is becoming a data-driven, consumer-centric and retail-based delivery system. The only way to make this transformation possible is to use all the dataavailable to make these changes a reality.
While spending is skyrocketing, so are the regulatory and accountability demands placed upon healthcare companies and agencies. In order to reduce costs, improve care and thrive in this ultra-competitive healthcare market, organizations need to address the following challenges:
Data needs to be shared across organizations so doctors and their healthcare teams have all the information necessary to quickly and accurately diagnose and treat patients, achieve quality goals to increase reimbursements and improve population health. All of this must be done while maintaining the highest possible levels of security to protect patients’ privacy and safeguard against hackers. Unfortunately, healthcare had the dubious distinction of having the most security breaches2 of any industry in 2015. In addition to maintaining the status quo, organizations need a flexible architecture to implement new rules that support ever-changing regulations and new users.
- High Volume, Disparate Data
Healthcare providers commonly ignore 90%3 of the data they generate. This is probably because each patient generates 100MB of data4 per year (a number that is rapidly increasing). And much of that stored data is found in a variety of formats, such as images, PDFs, texts, powerpoints and more-newer data types that are not easily managed with traditional technologies. This data is being “ignored” in almost every case because it’s just too hard or too expensive to use in a practical, timely manner.
- Siloed and Inaccessible Data Sources
To help organize data, many medical entities created data silos in legacy systems based on 30-year-old technology that requires massive master data structures to integrate data. Now data is stuck in those siloes, and cannot be easily integrated, rendering much of the information unusable. Combine this with massive consolidation bringing together organizations with their own data siloes and the problem becomes even more acute. Almost all organizations are struggling to eliminate data silos,5 which prevent innovative analytical efforts, comprehensive views of patients and processes and the delivery of critical information to all customers (internal and external).
The explosion of new data sources-nearly two-thirds6 of Americans own smart phones-and mergers and acquisition (M&A) activities (healthcare M&As reached unprecedented activity7 in 2015, with 309 deals occurring8in Q4 of 2015 alone). New users, additional data and changing business requirements have put intense pressure on IT to quickly scale to support new users throughout the world.
Last but certainly not least, today’s healthcare organizations need the agility to anticipate and respond quickly to stakeholders’ changing needs. Trying to make these “innovations” operational requires an operational, transactional database that can put new insights into the workflow where they drive quality and reduce cost.
Many organizations and agencies are pursuing ambitious IT strategies that foster change, but few are finding success. This is because these entities are trying to address modern challenges with 30-year-old technologies. These “traditional” technologies simply weren’t designed to handle today’s data needs.
Three Technologies Transforming the Industry
The good news is that new technologies have emerged with the growing demands of the healthcare industry. Smart healthcare players are implementing these new generation technologies to foster innovation, and enable their organizations to meet and exceed their business goals. Here are just a few examples:
- The Cloud
Whether it’s private, hosted or a hybrid of cloud and on-premise infrastructure, many global health organizations are embracing the cloud to better serve their customers. Cloud-based data is more accessible than when stored in traditional relational databases, mainframes, etc. and can be delivered anytime, anywhere to any device. By breaking down data silos and integrating data to provide a comprehensive view of all relevant information, doctors can provide faster and more accurate diagnoses, administrators can determine optimal staffing resources and patients can accept more responsibility for their overall wellness.The data agility inherent to the cloud also drives an emerging yet crucial aspect of healthcare: data analytics. Because cloud-based data is up-to-date and immediately available, analysts can more quickly provide answers to crucial questions such as, “Are there any Zika cases located in this specific hospital in Texas?” within minutes.
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
Call it what you will-IoT, Internet of Everything, or the Industrial Internet-it all boils down to the fact that the IoT for the healthcare market is expected to reach $117B by 2020.9 Consumers have led us down this path, with the rapid adoption of wearables (e.g., FitBits and smart watches), and the industry has no choice but to follow. But IoT can be extremely beneficial to the organizations that embrace and implement it correctly. The IoT can lead to:
- Improved patient care: RFID chips in patient ID bracelets can track a patient’s progress through a hospital; voice recognition technology on mobile devices reduces time-consuming documentation so doctors can spend more time with patients; and information can be pulled from various sources (e.g., EMRs, wearables, X-rays, etc.) to provide physicians with a comprehensive view of a patient’s health for rapid diagnosis and treatments.
- Increased operational efficiency: Wearables and monitors can track and deliver patient information in real-time; and RFID chips and mobile scanners can track inventory to ensure supplies are ready and available.
- Reduced errors: the need for less documentation reduces human participation in the process, resulting in fewer errors.
- New Generation Databases
The Cloud and IoT are often powered by new generation databases. These technologies provide the flexibility needed to ingest massive amounts of today’s variable data quickly and easily, while affordably scaling to meet growing customer bases, new patient populations and incoming employees from M&A consolidation activities. In addition to flexibility and agility, new generation databases include enterprise-hardened features such as government-grade security and high availability that safeguard data and ensure the right information is readily available to the right people. These databases can reside on-premise or in the cloud, and their flexibility establishes agile platforms on which organizations can quickly pivot to meet new regulations or rapidly roll out new services as needed to improve customer service and retention.
Change can be daunting and the healthcare administration sector is not widely known for its early adoption of new technologies. But in today’s digital economy, all healthcare organizations need to adapt and innovate to better serve. Equipped with the right technologies, this industry will not only survive, but thrive.
- O’Reilly. “How Data Science is Transforming Healthcare: Solving the wanamaker dilemma.” Available at: http://www.oreilly.com/data/free/how-data-science-is-transforming-health-care.csp
- Healthcare Informatics. “Healthcare Hacks Accounts for Most Data Breaches in 2015.” Available at: http://www.healthcare-informatics.com/news-item/healthcare-hacks-account-most-data-breaches-2015
- Siemens. “Smart Use of Big Data: The Key to the Future.” Available at:www.healthcare.siemens.com/news-and-events/mso-big-data-and-healthcare-2
- Slideshare. “Is That Data Valid? Getting Accurate Financial Data in Healthcare.” Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/healthcatalyst1/is-that-data-valid-getting-accurate-financial-data-in-healthcare-44463134
- Health IT Analytics. “What are the Barriers to Clinical Analytics, Big Data Success?” Available at: http://healthitanalytics.com/2014/07/30/what-are-the-barriers-to-clinical-analytics-big-data-success/
- Forbes – $117 Billion Market for Internet of Things in Healthcare by 2020. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2015/04/22/117-billion-market-for-internet-of-things-in-healthcare-by-2020/#593b64bf2471