Care providers: Data management comes before analytics

Are hospitals deriving full value from their data?

Duplicate records, inaccuracies and poor storage administration all hamper care providers' ability to efficiently analyze information. Before hospitals, post-acute care clinics and other institutions can learn from the information across their operations, they need to ensure its integrity.

In this article, we'll discuss the data management challenges with which care providers are contending and detail a few methods to resolve those problems. 

Clinical data management problems

Never mind analytics - care providers are having enough trouble ensuring the accuracy of electronic health records.

Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare contributor Debra Ruder dissected how EHR technology impacted care delivery. Using data from CRICO, Harvard's patient safety and medical malpractice insurer, Ruder noted there were 147 cases in which EHR systems contributed to medical malpractice claims. Digging deeper into CRICO's findings, the author revealed 20 percent of EHR-related malpractice cases were due to incorrect information. Another 16 percent were a result of data formatting conversion issues. 

Data inaccuracy isn't the only problem impacting care providers' ability to operate cost-effectively. In an ideal world, hospitals would have the human capital, financial resources and time needed to deploy systems capable of supporting more cost-effective care delivery methods, but this isn't the case. A survey of hospital CIOs from Black Book Research found 77 percent expect IT spending and staffing to remain sluggish throughout the first two quarters of this year. 

One of the greatest challenges facing 94 percent of CIOs is capturing the information required to establish "actionable population health analytics." Specifically, 81 percent of hospitals using enterprise data warehouses struggle to store and organize EHR, financial, enterprise resource planning, supply chain, labor and population health data in such repositories. 

Health record accuracy is a persistent problem in hospitals. Health record accuracy is a persistent problem in hospitals.

Solving care providers' data management problems 

As is the case in other industries, hospital administrators often regard IT as costs centers. Most IT departments are overwhelmed with daily administrative tasks. In addition, when choosing between the needs of care professionals and storage administrators, decision-markers are more likely to divert scarce resources toward the former, as these individuals have a more immediate impact on care quality.

With these issues in mind, hospitals may benefit from allocating a portion of IT's monthly budget to data storage management and monitoring. Companies specializing in this discipline can analyze a hospital's operational demands and determine how the data storage infrastructure can support those needs. 

The value of outsourcing data management responsibilities is two-fold. For one, the firm with which a hospital partners has an incentive to direct resources to where they're most valued. In the case of a data management partner, that value lies in building the capabilities necessary to reduce storage costs and establish effective data management strategies. This is because data management is a revenue driver for the partner. The same principle applies to hospitals, for which care delivery is the revenue driver.

The second benefit to outsourcing data management is that a hospital partner can dedicate resources toward monitoring storage asset performance. For example, select data management partners offer machine intelligence systems that continuously optimize throughput and bandwidth to servers based on real-time workloads. In addition, continuous monitoring establishes an "always on" disaster recovery and business continuity team. The minute an issue occurs, in-house IT doesn't have to scramble to fix the problem - the partners are already on it. 

Outsourcing isn't a panacea to every data management issue, but it is a critical step forward. Look for partners that offer solutions compliant with HIPAA standards and other regulations. Also, before the request for proposal, dig into how the partner assesses data management's place within current operations.