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The advantages of big data don't extend to profit alone. It can be extremely beneficial in tracking the progress of disease, either in the short-term or as part of larger trends. Its utility as a medical tool is significant because of its pattern-tracking and predictive abilities when properly implemented and managed by a skilled IT professional. The advantages it offers to research also shouldn't be dismissed, as information from a wide variety of institutions and other sources can be brought to bear on some of the more troubling health problems of the 21st century. Healthcare IT News recently suggested that the industry should integrate analytics into its operations in order to prepare for the future.
"As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and move away from commercial insurance to CMS and Medicare Advantage programs, clinical informatics will ensure that seniors are cared for and transitioned consistently across the landscape of their primary care physicians, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and hospice centers," Greg Chittim, director of analytics and performance improvement at Arcadia Solutions, told Healthcare IT News.
Record keeping and compliance
To deal with more than just big data, effective IT support is an important part of medical compliance and incentive programs. Healthcare institutions that meet Meaningful Use requirements with their electronic record keeping can earn government payments and more organized files in general can avoid a number of organizational hassles.
Despite the benefits the healthcare industry can achieve through more extensive IT services, though, many medical organizations are not providing enough budgetary assistance to their IT programs. This is according to a report from CIC Advisory, which found a number of institutional issues with how health providers have implemented IT. CIC Advisory discovered that these groups often include analytics as a secondary responsibility within their operations, and it is often split between multiple departmental roles.
"Our organization will be focusing on the enhancement of BI/BA in the next 2 years. Our current strategy is very tactical and product/vendor driven, with many overlapping and redundant data sets," said one respondent to the study. "The challenge that we face is taking the large amount of data from multiple sources that we have and transforming it into usable data."
Difficulties in IT implementation
Notably, the study found that multiple applications were occasionally used for the same objective. The absence of standardized data makes it difficult to analyze information that comes from different sources. This problem is only exacerbated by data silos, which were also common among respondents. Although patient and medical privacy are important parts of the industry, decision-makers may need to reconcile the ability to secure data with the need to analyze it.
Rather than turning to often lacking in-house IT services, the source noted that many medical organizations instead relied on outsourcing their IT jobs. RnR Market Research predicted that global healthcare IT outsourcing will grow from $35 billion to $50.4 billion by 2018. Healthcare providers are engaging in this practice to reduce their operational costs while implementing information technology. HIMSS Analytics revealed that 93 percent of these groups plan to outsource part of their IT services in 2014, while 76 percent are outsourcing at least one service rather than hiring directly.
"The number one barrier to implementing IT systems in hospitals is the lack of qualified resources," said Eric Born, Managing Director of Medix IT, HIMSS Analytics noted.
The source discovered that one in three respondents had to delay an IT project due to staff shortages. Despite the lack of prioritization given to these projects, the surveyed professionals felt that not moving on these initiatives was putting their patients and revenue generation at risk. The third-party IT staffing solutions that hospitals are taking advantage of are providing decision-makers with a ready supply of skilled professionals without the need to manage an occasionally prolonged candidate search. With many medical providers enduring various obstacles to their analytics and record keeping projects, these agencies can quickly offer workers suited to their individual needs.
These agencies can also help identify the specific IT requirements for a particular organization, which some hospitals may not be prepared to address due to the lack of emphasis on in-house IT departments. Complementing a medical provider's IT staff with additional help can also ease many of the burdens that they're laboring under while trying to fulfill multiple roles.
By not focusing on their IT staffing issues, hospitals are costing themselves money in the short- and long-term since they are missing out on both government incentives and organizational efficiency. While maintaining day-to-day medical service can be difficult enough without tackling IT obstacles, those everyday activities can be made easier and less expensive through analyzing trends in both supply use and medical patterns.