The use of analytics and business intelligence (BI) tools in health organisations has increased in recent years. Health organisations and administrators are looking at ways to improve patient care and reduce costs through the use of structured and unstructured health data. According to the SearchHealthIT.com 2013 Healthcare Analytics Survey of more than 200 healthcare executives and IT directors, 73 per cent of respondents cited the desire to improve business efficiency and reduce costs and to create better clinical outcomes as the primary issues driving the use of analytics tools in healthcare.
What is all this data? Health organisations are looking to take advantage of both structured data such as patient information housed in an electronic medical record and unstructured data such as doctor notes and medical images to discover valuable healthcare insights. With continued growth in patient populations and a greater demand for improvements in quality of care, having access to a single, complete view of patient information is more important than ever. However, even structured data can be difficult to use because various types of information systems store data in diverse formats. As a result, developing a holistic view of patient data is difficult.
Using data to improve health. Doctors, clinics and hospitals are looking to use their increasing amounts of data to improve and transform patient care through predictive analytics. BI solutions can help providers identify potential disease outbreaks or trends in treatment success, leading them to respond more quickly and improve patient outcomes. Clinical trial review board Opus IRB deployed a BI solution based on Microsoft Azure to improve safety and reduce risk for trial sponsors – two reasons that Opus IRB is expanding its business.
“We are talking with China, South Africa, Portugal and Brazil. The Microsoft Azure cloud platform will make it easy to expand our global partnerships because no one wants to build their own infrastructure,” says Donald Johnson, Chief Operating Officer at Opus IRB. “And in the United States, our sponsors love our real-time reporting, and we are getting more studies. Everyone benefits!”
In addition, health analytics and BI tools can assist administrators in identifying opportunities to reduce costs and increase business, effectively manage resources and improve coding to reduce billing inaccuracies. In the United Kingdom, Leeds Teaching Hospitals implemented a hybrid-cloud solution based on Microsoft SQL Server software and Microsoft Azure that processed six years’ worth of admissions records in just a few hours and identified more than 30 scenarios where the organisation could improve healthcare and operational and financial efficiency.
“We discovered that we had been losing money by not accurately recording and charging for diagnostic tests, such as CT scans, in our clinical software in a way that could then be picked up by those who do the billing,” says Iain MacBrairdy, Business Manager, Emergency Medicine, at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.
BI solutions and reporting tools can also assist in identifying the information needed to make informed decisions. Access to real-time or near real-time information enables users to make timely decisions, and self-service BI tools empower clinic staff to quickly and easily pull together and analyse the data necessary to make knowledge-driven, day-to-day strategic decisions. And graphs, reports and visual aids can be developed to display valuable information within the organisational data to ultimately transform patient care and grow the health practice.
What’s next? With health organisations actively learning how to take advantage of their collected data, the next wave of focus looks to be on patient-generated health data gathered through personal health applications and health devices that connect to technology such as the Microsoft HealthVault healthcare website. This data holds great potential for analytics but also raises concerns for data ownership, privacy, data standards and participation.