Data Utilization Challenges HCOs Face When Implementing Data in Healthcare Administration
Implementing data in healthcare administration is a vital task that has to be accomplished in order to achieve the highest level of quality and efficiency. However, given that the application of Big Data on a mass scale is still a growing area of healthcare and that any new methodology or way of thinking requires adjustments, there are unavoidable challenges that come along with data implementation, as well. While a comprehensive list and discussion of applicable challenges would be impossible in a single article, it’s worth it to take a look at some of the major challenges that HCOs and other healthcare professionals have to face when seeking to implement data-driven strategy.
Top Data Utilization Challenges in Healthcare Administration
Whenever we talk about Big Data, we have to begin the discussion by talking about the challenges inherent within Big Data itself. Typically, there are three major challenges that professionals who deal with Big Data discuss. Inherent within a vast amount of data are the issues of volume, velocity, and variability.
Big data, by definition, contains an overwhelming volume of data. Handling that much data poses obvious challenges even at the collection stage. How to categorize, analyze, and utilize large volumes of data can be frustrating and difficult. In some ways, the benefit of Big Data — the fact that so much of it is available — also poses one of the major challenges for data analysis.
Another challenge facing those who wish to analyze Big Data in the healthcare industry is the speed at which it moves. With an increasing number of file systems and records-keeping systems existing in the digital space, information can be — and is — sent incredibly quickly. Being able to capture data in real time is an essential part of Big Data, but it’s certainly a challenge. While strategies and best practices continue to evolve, it’s likely that being “caught up with” the speed of Big Data will not be a reality for quite some time, if ever. However, programs and technology solutions that utilize automation, machine learning, and AI have been able to significantly mitigate the velocity challenge.
By its very nature, healthcare data is variable. Every patient is different, and while trends and behavioral information can be extrapolated from it, healthcare professionals have to remain constantly aware of the fact that variability poses a challenge. It’s easy to start seeing healthcare data in categories, but if we don’t take the time to remember and account for the variability of that data, our results and any solutions we develop from them will always be lacking.
More Specific Challenges Face Those in Healthcare Administration, Too
Beyond the recognized and well-established challenges of Big Data as a whole, those in healthcare administration and the healthcare industry overall face more specific challenges, as well.
Translating Data into Useful Information
While this isn’t necessarily a challenge unique to the healthcare industry, the types of information that are found useful are. In other words, every profession that utilizes Big Data has to deal with the task of translating huge amounts of data into useful information. However, in the healthcare industry, “useful information” takes on a variety of forms. For instance, useful information to a nursing staff might be an accurate prediction of how many nurses need to be working during a given period of time. However, for a physician, useful information might have to do with a patient’s particular susceptibility to a disease or an entire demographic’s likelihood of needing a specific medication. Data translation in the healthcare industry looks different depending on where it’s being done and for whom, which poses an incredible challenge to those attempting that translation.
Creating Actionable Plans
Information alone is not sufficient. Useful information is only useful if there’s an actionable plan attached to it. Knowing that a trend exists, for instance, does nothing for healthcare professionals if there isn’t a follow-up strategy or action that can be considered in order to address that trend in an appropriate manner.
Creating Interfaces That Non-technical People Can Utilize and Understand
Not everyone in the healthcare industry is technically minded. While everyone in healthcare has a specific expertise, it’s not necessarily an expertise that involves technological knowledge or training. For this reason, it’s important that software developers and strategists come up with interfaces that help non-technical people view, understand, and utilize data without having to obtain another degree in technology to do so.
Outside of the inherent challenges within Big Data are industry-specific challenges. These challenges arise specifically because of the nature of the healthcare industry and the unique challenges that exist when attempting to implement data-driven strategies within it.
The healthcare industry deals with some of the most sensitive and confidential information there is. While financial companies also deal with sensitive information, healthcare organizations tend to possess and utilize both financial and medical information as well as other PII that could be extremely damaging to patients or organizations were it compromised. This heightened need for privacy protection poses unique challenges to those working on the collection, translation, and interpretation of healthcare data.
There are also security issues that exist in healthcare, and while they are closely related to privacy issues, they’re not quite the same. While privacy concerns mainly deal with the upholding of HIPAA regulations, security concerns have to do with the physical security of electronic and physical data. While most security breaches would necessarily compromise patient privacy, not all HIPAA violations pose a security threat. Therefore, it’s important for healthcare administration workers, especially those working directly with Big Data, to consider both challenges when developing solutions and strategies.
Big Data can provide powerful results, but it can also come with a hefty price tag for certain applications. While the benefits of Big Data are rarely argued with, budgetary constraints often impede the implementation of data-driven culture as a whole. Even outside of data-related issues, such as in the area of food safety sampling, budgetary constraints can cause challenges and concerns. Fortunately, more grants and Federal funding is becoming available for HCOs that wish to implement Big Data, and as the demand for data-driven services and systems increases, accessibility grows.
Utilizing Software Can Help HCOs and Healthcare Administration Professionals Embrace Big Data
As the healthcare industry shifts from a pay-for-service model, which rewards healthcare practitioners and administrators for simply performing a service, to a value-based model, which rewards them for the results they achieve and the level of care provided, it’s important for healthcare administration professionals and HCOs as a whole to interact with Big Data in a meaningful way. Big data can pave the way toward an increased level of patient care as well as a lower cost of business for HCOs. However, those benefits can only be realized in the context of actionable, useful information. Fortunately, software programs are making it easier for HCOs and their members to access, understand, and utilize data in a meaningful way. Here’s how.
Clean, Simple Interfaces
One way to ensure that healthcare administration professionals and healthcare facilitators can successfully face some of the aforementioned challenges is to create technological solutions that utilize clean, simple interfaces. The more complicated an interface, the more likely it is that mistakes will happen, security will be compromised, privacy violations will occur, and opportunities will be lost. Clean, simple interfaces that everyone can use and understand are far more helpful and can do a lot for those seeking to improve healthcare by utilizing Big Data.
In addition to providing a clear interface, improving accessibility is also an important goal for the healthcare industry. As HCOs move toward a data-based culture, accessibility will become a theme. Instead of confining data within departments, data will have to be accessible to everyone in the organization from a variety of devices and locations. This interconnectivity will help improve accuracy, efficiency, and overall quality of care.
Better Decisions, Faster
Ultimately, creating data-based strategies and systems will help HCOs facilitate healthcare more effectively and empower healthcare professionals to make better decisions more efficiently than ever before. Having real-time information to data that is centrally located and accessible on devices that are simple and easy to use can only improve the ability of those in healthcare to do their jobs. Patients will receive better care, more efficient customer service will be delivered across the board, and administrators can make data-backed decisions about staffing, finances, and other critical aspects of organizational oversight.
When dealing with large volumes of data, there are unavoidable challenges that come up. As with any new technological advance or systematic change, HCOs will have to be patient but persistent in their attempt at implementation. However, these challenges, while unavoidable, are not large enough to warrant abandoning the drive towards data-driven culture and data-informed practices and procedures. In the long run, careful, consistent attempts at learning and growing into this new era will undoubtedly pay off and make it worth the effort to overcomes any challenges that might stand in the way.