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Is Your Healthcare Organization Ready for Clinical and Financial Business Intelligence?

Written by Keith Lage | September 20, 2016

In the next few years, the existence of clinical and financial business intelligence is expected to grow significantly, according to the HIMSS Analytics 20161 Clinical & Business Intelligence (C&BI) Essentials Brief. And rightly so, seeing that clinical and business intelligence is essential for healthcare organizations looking to reduce costs and move to data-driven healthcare improvements.

Clinical and Financial Intelligence Explained

Does your practice have a clear understanding of what clinical and business intelligence is? If not, you're not alone. The simple definition is as follows: "Clinical & Business Intelligence (C&BI) is the use and analysis of data captured in the healthcare setting to directly inform decision-making."

The Importance of Business Healthcare Intelligence

With U.S. healthcare undergoing significant changes in the transition from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, clinical and business intelligence can create a competitive advantage for healthcare organizations while also improving quality of care and reducing costs.

Today, there is simply too much data out there for humans to organize and use accurately, strategically and effectively. By employing a thoughtful business healthcare intelligence strategy utilizing a clinical data warehouse, healthcare organizations can make significantly better use of the data they collect every day.

When used strategically, business healthcare intelligence provides the opportunity for healthcare facilities to improve patient care and overall business operations.

According to HealthCatalyst Senior Vice President Paul Horstmeier, healthcare organizations harnessing the combined data of EDWs can develop, for example, a monthly summary of operational value, defined as “outcomes per dollar spent.”

However, many health systems are still struggling to digest the significant amount of data available and gain top executive commitment to justify the investment of an enterprise data warehouse (EDW).

What is a Clinical Data Warehouse?

A clinical data warehouse is a database where collected data can be easily and securely accessed and managed. Without the right clinical data warehouse, a healthcare facility cannot effectively store, measure, and analyze the vast array of data they collect on a daily basis, which is the basis of an effective healthcare business intelligence strategy.

The data that is stored in a clinical data warehouse often comes from several different sources, including internal sources like electronic health records (EHR) systems, financial systems, and patient portals; as well as external sources including state or federal databases that store health information for a given population.

“Most vendors working in healthcare and other industries observe that healthcare has the most-complex data of any industry,” the HIMSS report states.  The HIMSS Analytics® 2016 Clinical & Business Intelligence (C&BI) Essentials Brief continues to identify that “the biggest flaw of all is the lack of a documented BI strategy, or the use of a poorly developed or socialized one.”1  

In fact, independent research firm Gartner, Inc., notes in its 2014 report, Top Actions for Healthcare Delivery Organization CIOs, 2014: Avoid 25 Years of Mistakes in Enterprise Data Warehousing, that the lack of a BI strategy is one of “nine fatal flaws in business operations improvement (BOI)” in healthcare. “

Acquiring Financial and Clinical Intelligence

There are many ways to acquire financial and clinical intelligence, but employing a healthcare enterprise database warehouse (EDW) is one of the most effective ways to do so. Why? It saves a significant amount of time and resources.

From developing a manual data tracking process, to maintaining it, tweaking it, and compiling data from it to provide to executive staff for review, the time spent on managing clinical data is immense. An EDW, however, can assist physicians and their staff with this process by automating many of the processes that were once manual.

Benefits to Using a Healthcare EDW

Many EDW systems integrate with other data storage systems, and can be accessed by both practice staff members and executives, eliminating the need to copy or transmit data that already exists in one place. With central access to all data, every member of your staff can use and analyze the data in order to determine how to improve cost management and the quality of service you provide.

In addition to providing transparency and reducing instances of redundancy, a healthcare EDW also helps to ensure the accuracy of the information that is being stored, interpreted and analyzed.

However, Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Healthcare Provider Applications, Analytics and Systems, 20132 report found that enterprise data warehouse (EDW) market penetration was in the “very low end of the 5% to 20% category." 

Healthcare reform along with the recent announcement of the four MACRA implementation tracks should be driving the need and adoption of an enterprise data warehouse. An EDW solution is capable of not just measuring clinical and financial data but blending the two with quality, cost, and patient experience data into actionable information resulting in better clinical outcomes.

Leveraging the Benefits of Clinical and Business Data

Before you can leverage the benefits of healthcare clinical and financial intelligence, it is important to have a robust, secure and flexible enterprise database warehouse to store your data for everyone who may need to access it.

While this can be a challenging and time-consuming process, having a solid EDW in place can empower organizations to streamline reporting processes and improve outcomes.

1http://www.himssanalytics.org/news/business-intelligence-putting-data-to-work

2 Shaffer, Vi, “Hype Cycle for Healthcare Provider Applications, Analytics and Systems, 2013,”https://www.gartner.com/doc/2568915/hype-cycle-healthcare-provider-applications, Gartner, Inc., July 31, 2013.