Obamacare sparks increased interest in business intelligence for healthcare

Melbourne Health’s recent deployment of a new data warehouse and the adoption of a business intelligence (BI) platform, to gain greater insight into how well it is serving patients while still controlling costs, is a look at what Obamacare may drive in U.S. based healthcare systems.

“Big Data” to healthcare systems really means getting control over both structured and unstructured data across multiple systems. In building a single data warehouse system, they have at least corralled it into a place where BI platforms can access it to perform analysis that can lead to pro-active solutions for healthcare problems.

In fact Healthcare reporter Paul Cerrato asks U.S. hospitals point blank in an article for Information Week, “How mature is your hospital’s business intelligence system?”. He points out that health organizations today face more pressure than ever to lower the cost and improve the quality of healthcare.


Meeting this challenge takes multiple layers of innovation that many healthcare systems, even the larger ones, are not ready to handle. Increased interest in mobile health application development, remote medical interfacing using IP video, digging through a surge in data being gathered on patients, and then protecting that data takes new levels of expertise.

Quoting Jim Adams of The Advisory Board Company, he points out that penalties that are part of the meaningful use regulations, like not reducing the 30-day readmission rate for preventable complications, could be avoided by the use of technology. “If you want to identify patients who are at high risk for hospital readmission, for example,” Adams says, “you can’t do that once a month. You have to do that daily, or even near real time,”. Yet healthcare systems are sometimes challenged by a lack of internal expertise either in data warehousing, business intelligence or application development.

Healthcare providers, faced with these new challenges, can find the necessary expertise at a far more affordable cost by utilizing outsourced resources. Business intelligence and application development are new areas for hospitals and practitioners. Major health providers, as many insurance firms did not, have not kept up with technology. Many are only now are starting to fully implement electronic health records despite the fact that the mandate has existed for many years.

Health insurers are also in the mix and between the two industries they will need more sophisticated systems to help them meet the challenges of comprehensive health insurance reforms ready to launch in 2014. Facing an aging population with an increasing prevalence for chronic illness, these organizations will be looking to technology for ways to manage healthcare costs.

Regardless, healthcare faces its greatest challenge in decades. Only by turning to technology will they have any hope of meeting these challenges successfully.