Business intelligence (BI) is a general term used across many different industries of businesses that helps to explain utilization of stored data. A more specific definition is the extracting, identifying and analyzing of computerized business data to provide current and predictive view of operations.
When integrating BI into the demands of healthcare the possibilities are almost limitless. However, the need for a data warehouse coupled with BI is integral to uncovering the potential of the stored data. How these work together is that the data warehouse is the efficient and effective way to store the collected information, which can then be accessed by all the necessary personnel.
The BI tools look at all that data and are able to dive down to find problem or red-flagged areas that should be looked over. Imagine sitting in a very important financial meeting where everyone has their own statistical data to backup their opinion for changes. One department shows there is a surplus and demands more spending power, but according to your numbers, that same department is showing a significant loss and should be cutting back severely. So, who is right? Both parties have evidence that supports their point of view, and both consider the other to be incorrect.
Situations like this happen all too often because two or more groups are extracting their numbers differently, possibly from different sources, and basing decisions with far reaching consequences on that data. If everyone was on the same page, with the same numbers, the same conclusions and all of it being accurate, more appropriate and effectual decisions could be made.
This is the importance of the data warehouse: everyone is pulling from the same information, and interpreting it the same way. Thus better assessments can be made with everyone in agreement. Another typical situation that comes up can be that everyone sees that a department is losing money, everyone has settled on that fact, but the no one can explain how, where or why it is happening. Sort of like looking at an Excel worksheet with all the numbers plugged in, the totals summed and yet no better understand of what is going on than before you looked at it.
How can you make changes if you don’t know where to start? What if the changes you believe you should make don’t aid in the health of the company? All the stored data is in one location, the necessary people can access it to help draw current and future decisions, but what does this do if there is no analysis tool that makes meaningful use and presentable layouts that let you know what all the numbers really mean?
BI might be divided up just a little further to seen for the ultimate usability and also the end strategy that you want to meet. You can have all the graphs, reports and summaries you can handle, but if you don’t know what your end-game is, than you are left with a very expensive data system. Obviously, more often than not, cutting costs and inefficiencies is at the top of everyone’s list. There is nothing wrong with that in the field of healthcare, and in most cases, this would help with patient safety, treatment and overall cost.
To be more specific though: what if you wanted to cut down on the number of habitual patients seeking pain medicine. This would mean understanding the fundamentals that go into a patient coming to a hospital or clinic on a regular basis. This isn’t found within the vast array of numbers, but is found within notations and other information that can be housed in a data warehouse. By having a strategy, you can see where you are headed and why. There are other pitfalls to be aware of that can bring down any giant of the business world.
In one word, let me say Segway. Just because you build it, you hype it, you cover it in mystery and you launch to a national audience doesn’t mean that everyone will flock to buy it. The same goes with business intelligence: just because you install it, instruct everyone and toot your own horn doesn’t mean everybody will support the decision or utilize it to the fullest potential. Change is required and you need to understand that all your problems won’t be solved just because you instituted new software.
Additionally, no matter how much of a perfect fit BI software may be for you, if data quality isn’t an enforced concept for everyone involved, the old adage, “GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)” will always ring true. A simple example of this could be if a health professional consistently entered a wrong spelling for medicine administered to patients, the information wouldn’t be pulled out for statistical reporting or other pertinent accounting. This simple action could lead to eventually falling behind in having that medicine purchased or slightly skewing expenditures. Without consistent checks to make sure that all information being entered is reliable, the conclusions made could be biased in one direction or another, but never completely accurate.
Healthcare business intelligence may be of the most complex of any known industry, but also may yield more long-lasting answers no matter your part in the healthcare system. However, be ready to know the inner workings of the business and the strategies that will help to accomplish whatever goals may be requested or required of you.