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Data-driven decisions: The future of healthcare

medical healthcare doctor
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

Covid-19 illuminated the harsh consequences of the healthcare industry’s slow embrace of technology to enable data-driven decisions. As a record number of people fell ill, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other supplies soared and healthcare professionals struggled to gain timely, accurate information about critical supplies, best practices for treatments and details regarding local surges. 

It’s an understatement to say the pandemic accentuated the importance of data’s role in healthcare. For more than a decade, the industry has been inching toward fully automating its business processes to improve efficiency and eliminate waste. The shift to a value-based care model has put even greater emphasis on data to help healthcare finally understand the true cost of delivering care, including the cost of supplies and anticipated patient outcomes. 

As the industry charts a path toward financial recovery and future resiliency, accelerating the adoption and integration of more modern, data-driven technologies, as well as leveraging the power and flexibility of the cloud (opens in new tab), is critical to solving the healthcare supply chain's complex challenges. 

The path to visibility and transparency 

The push to improve efficiency, reduce costs and understand the true cost of care are the drivers of recent investments in electronic health records (EHR), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and digitizing supply chains. The next step in healthcare’s technological transformation is the integration of these IT systems to support a clinically integrated supply chain. When organizations can feed accurate, evidence-based information into a hospital's systems, providers gain greater insight and realize benefits, such as:

  • Creation of a single source of trusted information to better manage the use of drugs and devices in the delivery of care.
  • Ability to align purchasing data and product utilization decisions with evidence.
  • Greater visibility into the cost and clinical outcomes associated with medical products.

The foundation of clinically integrated supply chains is the exchange of clean, accurate data that identifies factors affecting cost, quality and outcomes. However, healthcare has a data problem: the industry is creating huge volumes of data, but has little ability to draw the necessary insights to make informed decisions. 

The good news is this problem can be solved. The first step is for IT teams at provider organizations to establish a modern data strategy that integrates data and ensures it is clean, accurate and flows easily across systems. A modern data strategy rests on four pillars: 

Data Platform: Real-time streaming that allows for seamless ingress and egress of data across systems is essential to ensuring the -timeliness of the data that is feeding analytics and decision making.

Data Maturity: To answer foundational questions regarding overall business performance or patient outcomes, it’s critical to improve data integrity and data quality around core entities, including patients, products, providers, suppliers, procedures and facilities. Measuring fill rate of key data attributes and match rate of duplicate entities are key parts of establishing data maturity and building out a strong master data management practice. 

Governance: Once data is clearly defined, organizations should establish a data governance program to ensure the ongoing quality and integrity of the data. In healthcare, a single entity, such as a procedure and its related procedure codes are relevant to multiple stakeholders. To avoid confusion and duplication of work, establishing a team dedicated to data governance can help to determine how data assets can be used and accessed.

Security: Data in healthcare often includes personal, private patient information. Security can be built into a modern data architecture that allows an organization to balance data access to multiple stakeholders while keeping security and data rights top of mind. In addition to general concerns around network security and other aspects of a mature security program, there are several other critical factors to consider. For example, maintaining immutability of original data, establishing role-based access control to data as it runs through an organization’s data pipeline and documenting the changes taking place in the data as it is transformed are all key concerns. 

With the help of clean, clinically aligned data, supply chain teams can better understand product utilization and identify products that yield the best results for patient outcomes. 

Shifting to the cloud – The key to operational efficiency  

Healthcare has been slow to embrace cloud (opens in new tab) technologies given the sensitive nature of the data that flows through its systems. However, there is growing acceptance among healthcare CIOs, to keep pace with the digital age. 

For many providers with aging, sometimes even proprietary IT infrastructures, as well as limited IT budgets, the cloud provides better scalability and a lower cost of maintenance. This frees up IT resources for more advanced projects, including system integrations within the organization as well as with outside systems and sources of data. 

Cloud-based ERP systems will enable real-time integration with other cloud-based systems, such as electronic health records and supply chain processes, leading to the formation of clinically integrated supply chains. Additionally, integration between multiple cloud-based systems is typically standards-based, which reduces the cost and increases the speed of integration. In the quest to fortify supply chains, the winners will be determined by how fast they adopt cloud (opens in new tab)-based ERPs.

To achieve success, organizations must prepare by developing a solid data foundation and ensuring that their business processes are fully automated and interoperable so that the data feeding the ERP system will allow for more informed clinical and business decisions. 

As we evaluate the future of healthcare, data will be at its heart. As the industry turns to data to balance cost, quality, outcomes and finances, healthcare systems need to rethink their IT strategies. Data-driven decision-making in healthcare is becoming more critical. To remain fully functional and efficient, healthcare organizations must invest in the correct technology to provide this analysis. Only with this in place can we move toward an era of using data to understand the best products, supplies and practices to achieve optimal patient outcomes and a more efficient and resilient healthcare supply chain.

James Minards, Country Sales Manager for the UK and Ireland, GHX (opens in new tab)

James Minards

James Minards, Country Sales Manager for the UK and Ireland, GHX