While healthcare organizations are amassing vast amounts of data, multiple versions of the truth can contribute to errors in patient care and payment processes. Physicians have been on information overload for decades, contributing to the estimated 15% of diagnoses that are inaccurate or incomplete (Harvard Business Review, April 2010). We don't understand why medicine works for one patient but not another. And growing shortages of nurses and medical specialists put more strain on broken systems.
But rather than focus on what is negatively impacting the healthcare system, let's talk about how information insights—coupled with clinical collaboration—can dramatically improve quality of care, patient safety and outcomes, while also improving the cost-effectiveness of care.
Improving research through analytics
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), a 793-bed teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, sought an information management solution that would ultimately develop into a research tool that could learn over time, bringing the very latest drug effectiveness and interaction data right to patients’ bedsides. Leveraging IBM Netezza, the BWH information management solution now handles massive data volumes and delivers analytics quickly, enabling the research team to conduct multiple drug studies simultaneously, as well as to design, test and apply new algorithms to identify drug-risk warning signals. BWH intends to use the solution to automate a process for continuous drug safety monitoring and evolve it into a system that learns from prior results to improve predictive accuracy.
Streaming data leads to better diagnostic capabilities
In another instance, The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), is undertaking a collaborative research project with IBM, using InfoSphere Streams, to provide caregivers with an early warning system that provides the ability to proactively deal with potential complications.
This first-of-its-kind, stream-computing platform was developed to capture and analyze real-time data from medical monitors, alerting hospital staff to potential health problems before patients manifest clinical signs of infection or other issues —such as detecting infections in premature infants up to 24 hours before they exhibit symptoms.
“I could see that there were enormous opportunities to capture, store and utilize this data in real time to improve the quality of care for neonatal babies,” Says Dr. Carolyn McGregor, Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics. This project proved beneficial in several areas:
- Gave clinicians an unprecedented ability to interpret vast amounts of heterogeneous data in real time, enabling them to spot subtle trends
- Combined physician and nurse knowledge and experience with technology capabilities to yield more robust results than can be provided by monitoring devices alone
- Provided a flexible platform that can adapt to a wide variety of medical monitoring needs
Providing better service to members
As Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) worked to improve the health of their members and provide better service, they faced a significant challenge in mounting data volumes–it became difficult to achieve high levels of service and performance because of the time and expense required to mine useful information. Providing comprehensive management of infrastructure, storage and databases, IBM Netezza made possible unprecedented performance improvements and engagement with BCBSMA business partners.
Forward-thinking organizations are connecting their healthcare data, systems and processes to facilitate secure communications and information sharing. These and many other healthcare organizations are pioneering the big possibilities that big data brings.