The recent proliferation of connected devices, sensors, and other equipment has made it almost too easy for healthcare organizations to acquire data. The potential benefits are evident: mining this data to make more informed decisions about their internal operations and patient care.
The problem however is that just having access to data does not in itself produce results, either because it is not reliable or not easily understood. Healthcare institutions need to focus on the fundamentals of data analysis to uncover the relevant nuggets of insights which help drive decision-making.
Bad data muddles up analytics, and bad presentation of data can put the focus on the wrong things or miss the mark altogether – it’s essential that the data be trusted and actionable. So how can healthcare facilities identify more meaningful insights that ultimately improve patient care? Here are some things to keep in mind:
Make data available in real time
The emergence of real-time data sources is having a dramatic impact across all industries. Data analysis no longer has to be a retrospective waiting game. It’s now enabling organizations to ask, “What’s going on right now, and what can we do about it?”
Take for example the challenge of improving patient satisfaction scores. Hospitals have a pretty good idea of what contributes to a positive patient experience: short wait times, meaningful interaction with caregivers, and effective communication with patients and family.
But a report on essential metrics like on-time start percentage and patient/provider contact time that arrives even a day later isn’t very helpful. It’s hard after the fact for caregivers and managers to link these stats to specific events and thus gain insight on how to do better.
If the information is delivered in real-time by leveraging technologies such as real-time location systems (RTLS), caregivers can respond immediately to a patient who has been waiting too long and managers can better anticipate and eliminate bottlenecks in the overall patient flow. Data created by an automated RTLS can be much more accurate and timely than that entered in manually, often well after the fact and also much less accurately.
Present data in a simple, meaningful way
Simple, visual dashboards are essential to make the data actionable. They enable staff to more easily monitor and understand a patient’s care process in a manner that is intuitive and doesn’t require data analysis expertise, while quickly identifying pain points of procedural inefficiencies to get ahead of a problem before it occurs.
As an example, take a look at hand hygiene procedures in a typical hospital. Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) cost organizations over $35 billion annually and are a pervasive threat to patient safety. Using real-time monitoring and dashboards, however, hospitals can show staff members how they are doing individually, and show managers how the unit or hospital is doing overall – all through visual analytics. This allows for immediate action or longer term interventions such as further education or mentoring.
Dashboards take real-time information about patients, staff and assets, and provide faster insight into how to improve the patient experience – whether by resolving issues that impact wait time or seeing what’s causing reduced staff contact time. Doctors and nurses can even access dashboards on-the-go on a tablet or wall-mounted display to gain real-time visibility into what’s happening in the OR, waiting rooms or post op rooms to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Today, dashboards loaded with predictive analytics are becoming a reality as historical data uncovers trends. Looking at the facility’s records, organizations can better predict trends in the coming hours, weeks and months to make more informed decisions, such as using previous data on infusion pump deployments to identify how the devices should be distributed and when more will need to be ordered or rented.
Bring on a data expert
There’s a movement to bring self-service analytics to the masses. Business intelligence (BI) and data visualization tools like Tableau, Qlik, Microsoft and SAP are paving the way for non-technical individuals to analyze and make sense of data. But the simplicity of these solutions for users masks great sophistication on the back end both in terms of managing the data and building dashboards that non-data experts can rely on to make strategic decisions.
Organizations need to be able to differentiate between “good” and “bad” data if they hope to avoid confusing or non-correlated results. An experienced analytics team knows that data integrity is the key to success.
Healthcare institutions should either look into third-party vendors to handle and manage data analysis, or find a data expert to bring in-house. There are increasingly more BI teams emerging within hospitals as of late, due to the value deep data analytics provides. As the availability and applications for analytics solutions continues to grow, it’s safe to say this trend will only intensify. Often these in-house teams will partner with vendor teams who are experts in their solutions as a starting point, then take over day-to-day operation of the BI systems once launched.
Spot and breakdown data silos
When implementing new technologies, it’s also important to consider data silos; particularly how to avoid creating new silos and how to eliminate old ones.
Data silos are repositories of data that are isolated from other parts of the organization. Healthcare groups should use all of the data that is available to them to drive more informed decisions and ultimately help improve patient care.
For instance, being able to combine RTLS data with clinical performance data provides caregivers with a more complete picture of the patient journey. Ensuring that the RTLS system is integrated to the clinical system and that a common “key” exists is essential to being able to blend and analyze this type of data.
The good news is that data silos are being broken down more and more, and larger organizations are leading the charge with tools like Tableau, Qlik and SAP. By taking advantage of the connectors in BI solutions, organizations can easily combine SQL, Oracle, Excel data and more to gain holistic discoveries.
The amount of data flooding through hospitals today is unprecedented. But that doesn’t mean it’s being used effectively. Organizations need to develop a strategy that delivers on the basics of data analysis — understanding the data at hand, ensuring its quality, finding the relevant bits to combine and analyze, and presenting it in a way that’s easy to consume. It’s an approach that’s already delivering results in better care and higher efficiency in forward thinking healthcare organizations.
Image: Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Dr. Michael Miller, director of research informatics, Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, discusses how as a research informaticist, he uses data for clinical care as well as research. Dr. Miller is interested in learning how to use information entered into EHRs for the maximum benefit […]
With all the data breaches and threats popping up all over by healthcare, expect the market for cybersecurity products and services in U.S. hospitals to grow by 13.6 percent annually between now and 2021.
That estimate comes from a new, lengthy and pricey report by research firm Frost & Sullivan on the U.S. market for hospital cybersecurity. Frost isn’t releasing dollar figures of its forecast to the media, but the Mountain View, California-based company isn’t holding back in identifying culprits in this expected market growth.
“There’s been a cultural naïveté about IT security in healthcare,” said lead author Nancy Fabozzi, Frost & Sullivan’s principal analyst for connected health.
Fabozzi said that many healthcare organizations have wrongly assumed that meeting HIPAA security requirements is enough. But the fact that, according to Frost’s research, there have been 1,437 large breaches of health data, affecting more than 154 million patient records, since 2009 illustrates that their efforts have been sorely inadequate.
More than 113 million of those records were breached in 2015 alone, so the threat appears to be growing. Of particular note, 98.1 percent of records breached last year were because of hacks or other malicious activity, according to Frost.
“Hospitals are finally now realizing that health data is so valuable,” Fabozzi said. Unfortunately, she added, until very recently, technology vendors have not had to prove that their offerings are sophisticated enough to meet the threats posed by hackers.
“In spite of a growing awareness of the problem of increased cyber threats, many healthcare organizations face considerable challenges as they gear up to do battle with cyber attackers. Hospitals’ lack of leadership, appropriately trained staff and adequate financial resources are critical concerns,” Frost explained in a PowerPoint presentation shared with MedCity News.
But they are starting to get the message. “Hospitals are transitioning from a reactive, piecemeal, fragmented approach to protecting privacy and security that is highly dependent on HIPAA compliance to an approach that is proactive, holistic and coordinated, anchored by integrated solutions designed to protect multiple endpoints (computers and connected medical devices),” the presentation said.
“The real opportunity here is for consultants — managed services and professional services,” Fabozzi explained.
In 2015, about 80 percent of healthcare security spending was on software and other products, with just 20 percent dedicated to services, Frost reported. Expect that mix to shift to about 70/30 by 2021.
With the HIPAA security rule now 13 years old — and based largely on a draft completed in 2000 — Fabozzi said that it’s likely there will be new legislation and regulation on healthcare cybersecurity in the near future, regardless of how the November presidential election plays out.
“There’s a risk in healthcare that goes far beyond anything in other industries, and that’s hacking into a medical device and harming patients,” Fabozzi noted.
Timing of this report couldn’t have been any better for Frost & Sullivan. The report — or at least the news release about it — hit the same week Phoenix-based Banner Health disclosed a major breach of payment terminals and other computer system and that Advocate Health Care Network in Illinois reached a record $5.55 million HIPAA settlement over allegedly lax security practices.
Here’s an infographic from Frost highlighting themes in the report:
Images: Frost & Sullivan, Flickr user El Hombre Negro
The next big step in population health is greatly expanding what defines a population. And that process will require a new generation of technologies, according to Adrian Zai of Massachusetts General.
The health care field does not always adopt the latest technologies as quickly as the enterprise space, given the sensitive nature of patient data. Organizations in this field must be sure this information is safeguarded at all times to avoid experiencing breaches that may lead to severe compliance fines from stiff industry regulations.
Cloud computing has very much followed this slow adoption model, but it appears health providers are warming up to the idea of implementing cloud environments. Healthcare Global's Stephanie Ocano recently detailed the benefits of the technology when introduced into this market.
Medical imaging in particular stands to take full advantage of cloud services. Ocano noted organizations can leverage the cloud to store and share large files among physicians, ultimately improving data access speed and efficiency.
"Widening access to health care means companies need greater agility to adapt to change at high speed and low cost, and cloud computing can solve this. The demand to reach, engage and manage millions of individual end-customers calls for more powerful systems. At the same time, this flood of patient data needs to be securely shared with healthcare providers," Ocano explained.
Cloud is crucial for electronic medical records migration
The health care field is currently experiencing a monumental shift from paper recordkeeping to electronic medical documents. This transition may be large in scope, but the cloud could be just what the industry needs to make the switch. Ocano believes EMR applications and secure text messaging will become more SaaS-based entities moving forward.
But what about security? Organizations that have yet to make the leap to the cloud often cite this concern as the primary reason behind their unwillingness to adopt the technology. However, this fear may be somewhat overblown, given that vendors offer proper safeguards to keep content safe.
Ocano indicated service providers include encryption services and tokenization solutions to secure any information shared between groups. Before adopting a cloud environment, health organizations should make sure the vendor and themselves understand the security responsibilities of the partnership.
Use of cloud in health care just getting started
Cloud computing may be a widespread solution across various industries but this is not the case with the health market. This suggests many organizations will be first-time adopters in the near future, so they will need to have a clear plan in place to make the most informed decisions regarding the use of the technology. Relying on paper records is simply not supportive of today's fast-paced operations in which employees need access to data anywhere at any time.
A Porter Research survey discovered a majority of health operations still rely on paper despite the fact that the cloud is available. What is not surprising, however, is that the technology is still expected to greatly influence the industry.
Cynthia Porter, president of Porter Research, asserted the findings of gaming-changing solutions in the health field were "eye-popping."
"For instance, how revealing was it that 58 percent of the nation's leading healthcare execs place a high importance in cloud-based technologies even though the industry is still greater than 70 percent paper-based?" Porter asked.
Health providers interested in adopting the cloud can benefit greatly from using migration tools such as RISC Networks CloudScape to identify any issues that may occur before launching a service. The solution includes a benchmark to gauge the workloads and server performance to help users achieve a successful implementation from the start. What's more is that the suite makes it easy for organizations to compare the very best cloud environments on the market to make the most informed decision possible.
Health IT vendor athenahealth made news earlier this year when it selected Austin, Texas, as the site of its new R&D hub . The company said it would create 600 jobs there over the next 10 years. However, that’s just one of the locations where athenahealth is hiring in IT. The company will add about 200 tech positions overall this year, according to Technical Recruiting Manager Amber Jackson. She estimates it will bring on more than 100 people in software engineering , 40 to 50 in product innovation and about 20 in user experience . Its hardware group is growing, as well. Overall, the company has about 3,000 employees. Click here to find more software engineering jobs. At its headquarters in Watertown, Mass., athenahealth has a large group in software development , product management and user experience, as well as folks working on hardware and the back end . Its San Mateo, Calif., operation — which will be moving to San Francisco later this year — is focused on software development, particularly for mobile applications. The Austin R&D operation is also about software development, product management and user experience, both design and testing . The company’s cloud platform, athenaNet, supports doctor’s offices and medical groups with billing, clinical records and patient communication tools. Its mobile offerings include Bugs & Drugs, a reference application that allows physicians to look up disease and prescription information. Though traditionally athenahealth has focused on practices, not hospitals, that’s changing with its latest offering, a care-coordination technology called athenaCoordinator Enterprise. Its Approach athenahealth’s user experience group includes both designers and testers. In product innovation, it’s looking for people with a background in software who have an innovative, problem-solving mindset, Jackson says. They might come from different backgrounds, such as computer science , project management or business analysis . In software development, the company likes people who are smart, motivated and passionate about making a difference to an organization. “We are not a company that will check off a laundry list: OK, you have one year in this scripting language or you have X amount of experience with a Linux system. That is not how we assess whether someone is either a technical or cultural fit,” Jackson tells Dice. “We really are looking for that problem-solving, creative thinking mentality with core skills and experience in software development and computer science as a whole rather than specific languages or systems.” How to Read a Job Posting The company’s technology job postings tend to be general. “You’re not going to find a posting that says, ‘this position will work on this product and this is the goal of this team. This is what you’ll do on day one,’” Jackson explains. “We intentionally write our job listings to be fairly high level – to describe the organization, to describe what it means to be a software developer, a product innovator … because athena is the type of company that is constantly changing and doing different things, constantly innovating.” Indeed, flexibility is key. “We are looking for people who, in addition to having core skills, want to come into an organization that is constantly changing and they may be tapped on the shoulder and told, ‘Hey, we’ve got this new project and you and your team members will be moved onto this project.’ We need people to be flexible and OK with that.” See more Landing@ stories here. Advice for Experienced Professionals athena is looking for candidates who have demonstrated the ability to take on more complex projects throughout their career. If you’ve been asked to take the lead on new efforts or have been promoted regularly, you may be the kind of person it’s looking for. “In some companies, promotion is not really available,” Jackson observes. “In that case, demonstrate that, even if you were staying in the same job, you were taking on more complex projects, you were doing more interesting things that you sought out .” Also, be clear about why the position at athena is the logical next step for you. “If you’re employed and you’re looking to leave your current role, you should have a compelling reason why,” she says. Related Stories athenahealth to Add 600 Jobs in Austin Fastest Growing Tech Firms Focus on Enterprise Tech Jobs: athenahealth, GoDaddy, Tripobox The post This Is the Secret to Landing a Job at athenahealth appeared first on Dice News .