The discussion around the potential and necessity for big data analytics has reached a turning point. Many hospitals, health plans, and accountable care organizations realize that the future of healthcare and population management is going to depend on big data and are now trying to decide how to best use it. So what exactly is big data?
Big data is a buzzword, or catchphrase, used to describe a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques. Big data analytics play a crucial role in the financial success of an organization and the physical health of patients it serves. There is a lot of discussion around how we can use the data and some discussion around how we are using the data. But before we use this data to treat populations, the reliability and validity of the data cannot be ignored. Everyone is racing to apply their analytics to reduce health care cost and improve patient outcomes. Organizations must comprehend all of the details of the data they are analyzing to accurately depict every aspect of the patient care performed.
Regardless of what type of organization you are a part of, complete an organizational assessment. Consider asking these questions:
- Does your organization access all the necessary sources of data for analytics?
- Are the data sources reliable?
- Is the data organized?
Only when you answer “yes” to all of these questions can you move forward in implementing and then applying analytics. If you answer “no” or “I don’t know,” your organization may not be prepared to efficiently execute a big data plan. Additionally, before you start applying the results to actual patient populations, you must ensure that your data is reliable. There are potential patient safety risks in applying the results of big data analytics to actual patient care if the data is unreliable or invalid.
Collecting large quantities of clinical data from health information systems for the purpose of research and analysis and can be complex. Difficulties tend to arise with the extraction, storage, and translation of the data. Data size can quickly become a problem and overwhelm an organization’s resources. Therefore, it is crucial to have data organization, processes, and data methodology for implementation of data management system. This process should be outlined, structured, and validated to ensure the data integrity.
Now, more than ever, big data analytics is key to your organizational success and can unlock the door in reaching all the power your data can achieve.
Tiffany Harman is a Clinical Analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.