Data warehousing, on the surface, may seem like a straightforward idea to grasp. However, there are so many functions that must happen in the right order for a user trying to access information from that warehouse to receive what he or she wants. In most cases, we all take having and getting access to data for granted; that it is something easy and we should just be able to type or click a few things, and voila, instant answers in the form of reports or electronic records.
All the work that goes into making easy for you and me to pull out information from some unknown location down the wire from our computers comes from the hard work that software programmers put into the organization, maintenance and then retrieval of all the inputted data.
I can almost hear the groaning happening right now. Who can even understand when some IT guy (or gal) tries to explain the huge complexities that goes into their job, and, on top of that, includes all the jargon that only programmers understand, anyway? Honestly, more than anything, it takes someone that understands the programming world and can explain it in more relevant terms to breach this gap.
Let’s imagine that you want to store a huge amount of information on all your clients, vendors and any other miscellaneous details that may need to be accessed later. More specifically, you are a doctor within a group of other medical professionals. This data could be written down and stored on thousands upon thousands of papers, files and tabs that would have to be gone through one by one to extract the exact data you needed. This obviously is not efficient and is prone to human error. So, the next obvious place to store information is on a computer. However, if everyone in an office is vying for information at the same time, that one computer is not sufficient. Most of you are probably saying, “Network the computers!”
By setting up and having a network, many different computers can be utilized at one time, and the information is available to all. But, what happens when the hub of the networking computers no longer has space for any more data to be entered? It must be time to upgrade to something bigger, and depending upon your needs, this could be a larger hard drive for a computer or moving to server(s). This allows for significant growth of data, and everyone still has access. Access to what, though? Do you have everything loaded onto Word or Excel sheets? Or did you spring for software that allows production of reports, receipts and any statements that may be required?
Now, we are stepping into the big boy’s game of clinical data warehousing. The warehousing portion of this refers to where massive amounts of information are stored for access by more than just a few people. And, just in case you might be wondering, the data is not on Excel sheets but is carefully filed into categories within the software so that it can be easily distinguished, sorted and managed.
At this point, it could be very easy to throw IT lingo at you and expect you to keep up, but that is not my intent. Data, especially clinical or medical data, is only helpful when you are able to use it for making decisions, extracting for specific purposes or finding patters and trends. This is where the software you chose becomes essential. But, not only the software as a name but as a functioning entity you can employ. If you wanted a list of all your clients in alphabetical order with addresses and phone numbers, most software will function quite well. On the other hand, what if you needed more dynamic information that was up-to-the-minute and contained client details that requires privacy protections. That Excel sheet isn’t going to be of any help!
Because you now have made a serious investment for your medical practice with a software program that allows for you to keep on top of everything, you don’t necessarily want to spend more money every so often if there is are changes on your network or within your system. Or, worse yet, what if there are new requirements for reporting that the corporate offices or government need? Instead, what if you were able to just ask for new parameters to be added, changed or removed in order to comply with the higher-ups? With software that processes the data with late-binding procedures, the flexibility that you are afforded allows you to keep the same software without significant upgrades, updates, or changes on each and every computer in your office that might shut you down for a while.
I know, I just threw IT wording at you: late-binding. Don’t stop reading; I want to explain the benefits. There are always updates that occur, but instead of having to buy the newest version and licensing for all computers on your system, you may only need to buy the newest version of the software for the newest computer to the system or if the boss (you) wants the latest edition. Everyone else can continue to work with what they are used to, and you have the latest and greatest. Because of the late-binding function within the software, flexibility is at a maximum and your company isn’t forced to make unnecessary upgrades that could be costly and inefficient.
It seems as if the healthcare industry is just a few steps behind many of the other industries and professions out there. However, the benefits that could be seen and felt within healthcare could surpass just about anyone else’s needs out there. Whether you are a doctor, other health professional or work at some other business industry, you can understand the need for flexibility and up-to-the-minute information that great software provides at a doctor’s office or hospital.
Image credit: flickr.com