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A prescription for the healthcare data blues

Published: August 23rd, 2017 By: IT World Canada Staff

IBM

Information overload is a recognized problem in the military. The disease has spread from fighter pilots who find themselves losing focus in combat — their cockpits are crammed full of instruments all vying for their attention all at once — to every other branch of the technologically advanced U.S. armed forces.

The explosion of data and the inability to digest it all in real time has created a new kind of fog of war in the 21st century. But this is not just a Pentagon predicament. This very same fire hose full of unfiltered information is blasting the foot soldiers in the trenches of many other sectors — not the least of which is health care. It’s not just individual health-care professionals but institutions themselves that are drowning in data.

Needless to say, things will only get more taxing in an increasingly informed, patient-centric world, where expectations are higher than ever and the drumbeat of accountability grows progressively louder.

On the plus side, it is possible not only to regulate this vast flow in information but also to use it to irrigate the health-care field and yield better outcomes for patients and providers alike.

Analytics has the potential to provide clarity in the midst of growing complexity, help root out health-system inefficiencies and waste that cost more than US $2 trillion a year, and deliver crucial insights that can form the basis of future strategies.

The top performers in the health sector use analytics for all these purposes and are widening the gap with those who don’t.

Nonetheless, there are natural barriers to getting in the game — chief among them, pervasive doubt about analytics’ ability to extract useful knowledge and work cultures that operate in silos. Also, when in the midst of a mess, not knowing where to begin tends to induce further paralysis.

So what is the answer? Not surprisingly, it sounds a lot like the advice a doctor might give a recovering patient: take it one step at a time, set attainable objectives and build on your achievements.

Successfully implementing analytics in health care tends to follow a certain formula.

First, choose a clear priority that will get buy-in from all levels of your organization and make sure the eventual benefits make a big difference.

Second, make sure you have the right approach. Ask yourself the questions you want answered — i.e. what can the data do for you? — rather than worrying about what to do with the data.

Third, resolve to make practical use of your newfound knowledge. Fourth, remember that analytics is an evolution, not a revolution, and that you can keep existing capabilities while adding new ones. Fifth, develop an overall vision, so your progress in the domain of analytics is not haphazard but future-focused.

The transition to an analytics-enabled health-care environment is as inevitable as it is necessary for organizations that want to be leaders, but it need not be a daunting experience.

If you are interested in learning more about the value analytics can bring to health care, please download The Value of Analytic in Healthcare white paper from IBM.