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Trends in Healthcare: Using Data to Improve Population Health

by Jenna Sindle

The healthcare industry has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of our societal obsession with data. With a growing range of devices reporting on key indicators of health, and advances in medical research generating not only more data, but more granular insight about diseases, there’s a tremendous opportunity for researchers, clinicians, and the organizations that support them to use that data to improve population health. 

However, while the data is there, ready to be parsed, snipped, analyzed, and applied, there are still some significant obstacles to be overcome in the pursuit for the next medical breakthrough. According to a recent study by GovLoop and NetApp “[m]any of today’s healthcare technologies are unable to manage the vast amounts of information that these new data sets provide [and manage] the difficulties of maintaining the security around personal health information.”

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What Paul Smith, Healthcare Strategy Leader at NetApp, has learned from his experiences with healthcare organizations is that those that are thriving have embraced a hybrid cloud environment. A hybrid infrastructure introduces the flexibility that enables petabytes of data to be moved, stored, secured, and managed seamlessly. 

“The beauty of the hybrid cloud is that you can reach efficiencies of scale because you are able to combine public hyperscalers but also maintain the sanctity and compliance of your sensitive patient data in your private cloud,” said Smith. 

One organization that has reaped the benefits of this approach is the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. With a vital mandate to support health services and centers for underserved populations it’s imperative that the HSRA’s data environment is robust. And, with more than 1,400 organizations and 27 million patients under its care and administration there is an enormous amount of data created each day.

Dr. Suma Nair, Director of the Office of Quality Improvement in the HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Healthcare, is focused on how to improve delivery of service to improve population health.  “Strengthening both HRSA and health center data infrastructure and data analytic capabilities has helped our success in advancing data center health,” she said in the study. 

Using a four part framework and foundation covering health infrastructure and technology, electronic healthcare records, data transparency, and location data, Nair and her team have been able to document and measure the effectiveness of programs and use it for continuous improvement. According to Nair this “has been really transformative in terms of population health management and quality improvement by creating the opportunity to benchmark and identify opportunities for improvement working across health centers locally, statewide, and nationally.”

As the population continues to age and healthcare costs continue to rise, despite various attempts at reform, this data-driven approach to improving population health will become increasingly important. Organizations that get a head start on building out their data management infrastructure will be poised to capitalize on these opportunities quickly and deliver immediate results. 

Ready to put data to work to improve population health? Download the guide here.

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