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Healthcare BI + Big Data + Cloud = Insights that Save Lives

By December 18, 2012Article

There are few technologies that have the power to impact a business or industry more than business intelligence (BI) software. Yet, it wasn’t long ago that BI was unattainable for all but the largest IT budgets. The on-premises tools were expensive — costing as much as $1 million to install and bring online — and usually required an ongoing commitment to consultants to maintain. Furthermore, these costs didn’t include the resource burden required to transform “intelligence” into measurable outcomes.

Times have changed. Cloud-based BI has dramatically lowered the cost barrier. The introduction of SaaS BI tools has finally opened the technology up to midmarket businesses, leveraging a shared infrastructure to provide the elasticity required for the growing volumes and velocity of Big Data.

While cloud-based BI is a leap forward, the evolution of BI has really just begun — starting with how it’s being used within the enterprise. In most industries, analytics are still performed on proprietary company information for the purpose of increasing profitability and competitiveness. We call this “traditional use” analytics. But what about uses beyond these profit-centric initiatives?

Today, we’re beginning to see powerful secondary uses for cloud-based BI, particularly in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries where requirements like Meaningful Use are pushing many organizations headfirst into the cloud. Cloud-based BI and data integration make it possible for healthcare organizations and pharmaceuticals to gather onto a single platform vast amounts of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data from a multitude of sources.

The data can then be harmonized and analyzed for an array of purposes, from coordinating a patient’s care across providers and facilities to comply with the HITECH Act, to identifying ideal participants for clinical trials. Collaborative data sources, such as patient care, census data, product sales trends and clinical research can be brought together and analyzed to create incredible new studies and outcomes not possible before.

There is nothing second-rate about the implications that cloud-based BI will have on secondary data nor the impact that secondary data will have on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

PricewaterhouseCoopers found that nine in 10 healthcare executives believe that the secondary use of health information will greatly improve patient care quality and that 65 percent of health organizations expect their secondary data use to increase significantly within the next two years. And, among those healthcare organizations already using some form of secondary data, 59 percent have experienced quality improvements, 42 percent have reduced costs and 36 percent have seen patient and member satisfaction improve. (Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Transforming healthcare through secondary use of health data, 2009)

Take New York-Presbyterian Hospital, for example. After implementing data mining and analytics tools to scan patient records in 2010, it has reduced the occurrence of life threatening blood cots by nearly one-third. Similar analytics tools helped Texas-based hospital system Seton Healthcare Family determine that those patients admitted for congestive heart failure that have a bulging jugular vein are likely to be readmitted.

Then there’s Partners Healthcare, a nonprofit integrated healthcare system and teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. This large community of researchers, hospitals and academic institutions are using the power of data analytics across multiple electronic healthcare record (EHR) systems to conduct post-market surveillance of prescription drugs. Their aim is to avoid future situations such as those seen with Vioxx and Darvon, two prescription drugs that killed thousands of Americans before being pulled off the market.

These examples illustrate how BI is evolving in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry but also show the potential yet to be realized. The insights gleaned are quite literally lifesaving and central to the advancement of healthcare. BI will be instrumental in tackling virtually every challenge facing the industry — from cost control and quality of care to identifying disease patterns and bringing new drugs to market more quickly.

But the role of the cloud in successful BI projects cannot be underestimated. Think on this: in 2004, healthcare benefits provider Aetna created an integrated data warehouse that collected member data from claims, pharmacies, labs and other sources. The cost to create this warehouse and the infrastructure and services required to support it totaled more than $1 billion. Today, cloud-based BI teamed with cloud-based data integration has given the industry the tools to expand the breadth of data sources and context for a mere fraction of this investment.

The explosive new growth of services in and around BI could never have been possible in the days of siloed on-premises data warehouse solutions. Only with the advent of cloud-based data integration have industries such as healthcare begun to yield benefits that are both transformative and industry-wide. How other industries leverage the power of secondary data will be dependent upon their go-forward cloud strategy and ability to partner with proven providers in the space.

Rob Fox is senior director of EAI/B2B Software Development for Liaison Technologies and the architect for several of Liaison’s data integration solutions. Liaison Technologies is a global provider of cloud-based integration and data management services and solutions. Rob was an original contributor to the ebXML 1.0 specification, is the former chair of marketing and business development for ASC ANSI X12, and a co-founder and co-chair of the Connectivity Caucus.

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