Healthcare IT diagnoses itself with a big data problem

 In Big Data, Solutions

If there was ever an industry built perfectly for the era of big data, it’s healthcare IT. With the exception of the Census Bureau, I doubt there’s anyone else with access to that much data. But due to changes coming from The Affordable Care Act, such as reimbursements being rewarded to hospitals and medical practices based on performance, it’s becoming incredibly important for hospitals to track specific information in real time to help them make intelligent business decisions.

At SHI, we’ve watched the growth of the healthcare IT industry for a chance to bring our unbiased vendor support to a heavily siloed industry. That’s why we jumped at the chance to partner with Cross Current Corporation, whose cloud-based, real-time business intelligence tool — Cross Current Business Analytics (CCBA) — makes gathering healthcare analytics easy and cost effective.

Healthcare’s big data hot spots

Through our partnership, we learned there are three hot points healthcare organizations need to focus on in terms of their business intelligence, and certain questions they need to ask themselves to help drill into their analytics. The first two are common to all businesses: operational and financial. What make hospitals unique are the clinical problems.

  • Financial: Where are you making money? Where are you not making money? Which parts of the practice are profitable? Which aren’t profitable? How do you pay your physicians?
  • Operational: How many operating rooms are you using? How many surgeries are on deck today? How many nurses do you need? How many full-time employees? How long are patient visits?
  • Clinical: This is the most important metric for hospitals to know how much reimbursement they’re entitled to through Medicare and Medicaid. So a simple question might be: What would the likely outcome be for an overweight, 65-year-old man who gets a new hip? What are his chances of infection? What are his chances of a quick recovery? What are the options for physical therapy?

Where can we go to find all these answers? Easy. The cloud.

Why keep big data in the cloud?

These healthcare systems have found their natural place in the cloud. The cloud’s architecture allows different lab, payroll, HR, and accounting systems to write to a single common database. Before the cloud, healthcare organizations would have to keep all of this data siloed and could only compare them through human interaction or complicated processing. But now with the cloud, we can use one common database to provide analytics and answer strategic business questions.

Healthcare IT is the ultimate in big data — even if its systems were built in the 1970s and 80s. And now, with the pervasiveness of cloud architecture bringing all those systems together, the question becomes: Can you find the right analytics to help operate your business? That is how you start driving real value to your organization.

With CCBA, IT decision makers are able to look at the performance of their systems in a graphical way. And the more sophisticated hospitals and practices can develop their own reports to enable them to see all the details in their practice.

Predictive analysis

This data can be very useful for predictive analysis when you’re determining employee scheduling or reoccurring costs. Let’s say you have 20 surgeons, 15 nurses, and 10 physical therapists working on Friday. How can the hospital best deploy them so that they can help patients while keeping the hospital profitable?

Not only can you use this data for a macro-level view of an organization, you can even drill down for a case-by-case basis. For instance, if you use two surgeons for one surgery, how are you going to pay them? By time? Seniority? Now you have a graphical way of seeing how each of these decisions can affect the hospital.

Another example where analytics can come in handy is with business expansion. Let’s say a larger practice is looking to purchase a smaller practice of 10 doctors. It needs to know how much business could be cannibalized if it moves forward with the expansion. Most organizations have their own metrics and standards that they try to meet internally using these analytics.

Benefits of healthcare IT in the cloud

A client of ours, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S., told us that by using CCBA it realized a 90 percent savings in ROI. Another client told us it saved 70 percent on human labor — before it even got the results from analytics.

Taking statistics out of the equation entirely, healthcare organizations have realized the value of moving their systems to the cloud as soon as it happens. Now that their employees have access to their most-needed info immediately, they can do their work smarter and faster.

With all this talk of clouds and analytics, most people assume that we’re talking about an IT solution. But that’s not the case. Plain and simple — this is a business solution. Like most things nowadays, we’re simply using technology to help solve a business problem.

With the imposing changes coming to healthcare, we’re bound for a shakeup one way or another. Either healthcare organizations will come on board, get in the cloud, and sure up their competitive edge, or they’ll be left behind.

During this Great Migration (as I like to call it) there will undoubtedly be a discussion as to whose cloud is industrial grade and most secure. And while this distinction is important for IT vendors, the most important thing for healthcare organizations to remember is: The cloud makes it much more cost effective to run your business. Plain and simple.

This post was co-authored by Robert Gottfried, President and CEO of Cross Current Corporation.

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