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Big data 2.0, healthcare analytics and the value of data

Today's powerful business intelligence platforms can turn healthcare data into applicable analysis without intervention from data scientists.

Cloud computing, large data sets and artificial intelligence are part of the next generation of business intelligence platforms that will change the way we interact with data. The increase of computing power available to business intelligence tools has caused a spike in interest in big data in many industries -- including healthcare.

What some refer to as "big data 2.0" or "data intelligence" is simply the result of big data and big compute. New analytics platforms are able to tap into data in new and more meaningful ways. Business intelligence (BI) vendors are combining their experience in parallel computing and machine learning to build a new generation of analytics products that can process information, understand it and return insight.

Healthcare business intelligence tools appeal to care professionals because of their power and simplicity. Executives are searching for platforms that can convert the vast amount of available clinical data into useful analysis that ultimately leads to enhanced patient care, better operational efficiency and increased revenue.

There are several functions of next-generation big data 2.0 and BI products that are changing the way hospital CIOs derive value from the mammoth amount of information that is collected and maintained within health facilities. Some of these are:

Immediate access to reports

Products such as those from Adatao Inc. are able to process large amounts of data, interpret it and deliver it to end users without the need for data scientists or report writers. This would allow accountable care organizations (ACOs) to quickly receive reports on requests they make.

For example, they could ask for the total number of patients seen during 2014 that are high risks for heart complications and group them by area. Hospitals could ask for data on something like the current rate of patient throughput and arrival to rooms.

Data harmony

Many of the legacy databases in use today require extra work to interconnect and share data with other systems. Microsoft Excel, Access, MySQL and other database engines are examples of tools that offer means to manipulate data.

They are not as flexible when it comes to data that is continuously changing in structure. For that reason, the combination of several different databases -- such as Hadoop and MySQL -- offers efficient ways to manage large sets of data. Patient information -- including electronic medical records, registration, lab systems, and picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) -- is usually spread across a number of systems. It's common for this data to appear in both structured and unstructured formats. The ability of BI platforms to efficiently manage and connect the data creates a comprehensive data set.

Real-time analytics

Access to the appropriate information during patient care is a top priority in healthcare. There are many times where analytics data on a specific condition must be extracted. As cloud providers add BI to their list of services, it enables hospitals to leverage those hosted services to extract and process large amounts of data and generate meaningful analytics and predictions.

Information accessibility

Access to analytics information should not be limited to a desktop. Many BI platforms are moving their dashboards and reporting to a pure browser-based model. This will afford users the flexibility to use any device, including tablets, desktops and smartphones.  Microsoft recently enhanced its BI platform by introducing an alternative to its interactive Silverlight-based chart that allows iOS and Android devices to render its charts in full HTML5. This means Microsoft's BI platform and SharePoint 2013 can deliver Power Pivot and Power View reporting capabilities on any modern browser, regardless of the device in use.

Virtual business analysis assistant

Many of the next-generation BI platforms are able to understand nontechnical, plain-English queries. One example of this is a capability in Microsoft's Power BI called Q&A. Adatao is another. These programs can also be considered virtual report writers and analysts that can generate key performance indicators, score cards and charts within seconds. Providers, nurses and executives can request the information they need and the system provides it in one step.

ACOs, hospitals and other enterprise organizations within the healthcare industry are aware of the value that can be gained from all the data they collect. Unfortunately, concerns around cost, security and lack of resources continue to pose challenges for many IT executives attempting to deploy big data 2.0 analytics tools.

As a new generation of BI products enters the market at an affordable rate, more healthcare facilities are beginning to test them out. Other industries may have been early adopters for some of these BI components, but with the promise of improved patient outcomes, reductions in costs and improved care, these products are bound to be rolled out soon across healthcare.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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