Bringing the Outside In: Two Ways to Capture External Data in Your Business Intelligence Efforts
By Brad Boyd
The term “business intelligence” has been tossed around for years as a way to describe the process of capturing, analyzing and interpreting data—and then using it to make organizational decisions.
Many of the healthcare organizations I work with have engaged in business intelligence activities for a long time, focusing on collecting and leveraging internal data and information. However, as the industry shifts from volume-based reimbursement to value-based reimbursement, I believe the need for data will shift as well. Moving forward, organizations will discover an exponential increase in their data requirements—not only internal data, but also external data from other healthcare providers, payers, and others.
In my opinion, organizations must figure out how to integrate external data and incorporate it into current business intelligence efforts. The big question is: What’s the best way to do this?
I advise one of two main approaches. The first one involves bringing external data into your organization a little bit at a time. For example, you could import data into distinct buckets within an existing data warehouse, and access that data through a variety of reports. If a clinician, administrator, or other staff person wants to see the data, he or she could ask for a report to review.
Although this approach is cost effective and requires minimal resources to set up, it doesn’t provide a seamless integration between external and internal data. External information is accessible from a segregated reporting perspective, but isn’t available in an integrated way through the EHR or other IT systems.
In fact, the whole process can be rather clunky, given that you could quite possibly have to leave one source of data to view another. In certain situations, this could be very frustrating. In addition, it fails to provide a comprehensive view of both internal and external data.
If this approach seems too time-consuming and cumbersome, I would think about marrying external and internal information upfront, storing them both in IT systems right away. Engaging in this type of wholesale move provides quicker, more streamlined access to comprehensive data for individual and population health management.
However, I have to caution that this avenue is much more costly and resource intensive. It involves updating and reworking your current IT solutions and your business intelligence strategies. Given all of the other competing priorities in your organization—ICD-10 and Meaningful Use, for example—pursuing this type of large-scale integration may not be feasible.
Whether you choose to absorb external data incrementally or all at once, there’s no question in my mind that you will need to gain access to it and share it across your organization. The current healthcare environment demands it.
I highly recommend that all healthcare organizations start seriously thinking about the best ways to incorporate external data into their business intelligence efforts. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of different approaches and map out a strategy. Otherwise, you may be left unprepared for the data-enriched, value-based future of healthcare.
Brad Boyd is vice president of sales and marketing for Culbert Healthcare Solutions.