Healthcare data is growing at a phenomenal rate with no signs of slowing down and it’s vital that healthcare organizations to learn how to put this data to work. With the right infrastructure in place data can be shared and made actionable, leading to valuable insights being identified. To take a deeper dive into the importance of data in healthcare as well as how to make the most out of it, we sat down with industry expert and technologist, Tim Waters of Equinix who touched on what collaboration means for positive patient outcomes and his advice for today’s healthcare CIOs as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of a data-driven healthcare environment.
Future Healthcare Today (FHT): Today, more than ever, healthcare is a data-driven enterprise, why has there been such an explosion of data in this field?
Tim Waters (TW): The simple answer to this is that data begets data. For the healthcare industry, long gone are the days of hand cranking to slide shelves back and forth to retrieve a patient’s health records. The data explosion we’re experiencing today is a result of advancements in the medical field and operationalizing medical practices over the years. The enormous amounts of data accumulated in healthcare – generated by electronic health records (EHR), administrative databases, and medical imaging systems to name a few – make it difficult to derive insights from immediately and can lead to data hoarding.
FHT: Why is data so important to healthcare?
TW: There’s a chain reaction when it comes to using data in healthcare. First and foremost, data should be used collaboratively — think of what comes as a result of the collaboration that takes place between physicians and researchers. Once collaboration starts happening it can result in clinical trials, which then leads to a vaccine or a cure for an illness with positive impact on patient outcomes. The chain I just described starts and ends with data. It tells us where collaboration needs to take place and from there reveals the key to understanding the needs of patients. Once all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled, the data gives way to life-changing results.
FHT: What can be done to ease the challenges of having too much data and put it to work to improve patient outcomes?
TW: Collaboration is the key to managing and putting data – either real-time or archived — to work. For a hospital system that’s able to collect strong data by way of their rigorous EHR solution, they need to be able to make that data available to someone who can actively use it whether that’s a team within the health system, a life sciences company working on genomic research, or a drug manufacturer looking for test cases for a new drug in development. Ultimately, there needs to be a creative approach to data, like the concept of collaboration, when looking to extract valuable insights.
FHT: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a hospital CIO as they work to manage data flows and put this data to work?
TW: You can derive valuable insights from data as long as you’re collaborating first. And, people often realize that they need to repeat the process starting with collaboration. It’s very common and cyclical. Sometimes your team will need to re-process, re-analyze, and begin looking for insights all over again. It can be a tedious cycle, but, in the end, if you can provide answers to questions that doctors, nurses, and patients are asking with the data you have, that’s invaluable.
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