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Data Strategy for Healthcare Systems

Healthcare organizations should consider these critical areas when building a data strategy.

I am privileged to serve as the Industry Practice Manager for Healthcare at WWT. In this role, I work with many healthcare systems at different stages of data maturity. A common truth among these systems is that all are on an extremely cyclical data journey where cycles can be virtuous or disastrous depending on the circumstances.

I recently presented at the 2019 HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition with Veritas, one of our partners in providing healthcare data and analytics solutions. For those unable to attend HIMSS19, or who missed the presentation, I'd like to summarize several critical areas I believe healthcare systems should consider when building their data strategies.

Is data really the new oil?

You’ve all likely heard the phrase “data is the new oil.” There’s certainly some truth to the saying. In fact, I’d argue we should take the analogy even further: Just as crude oil is pretty useless until it’s refined for downstream use, raw data on its own has limited value until it’s cleaned up and refined into insights that organizations can use to improve outcomes.

Below, I outline some best practices for developing a basic data strategy within a health system framework.

Teamwork makes the dream work

  • First, make sure you engage an experienced interdisciplinary team in your planning efforts to avoid blind spots that can prevent data value realization. WWT has provided consultative, engineering and architectural support to some of the largest public and private organizations at the start of their data journeys.
  • Once you’ve assembled a team, start asking your “Whys?” Your goal should be to define your overarching purpose, agree on specific clinical and business outcomes, and then prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. WWT’s expertly led Ideation Sessions and Data Strategy workshops can help you achieve the proper alignment and provide a roadmap to achieve your goals.

Cover all angles of your security fabric

  • Make sure to include Compliance, Security, Privacy and Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery as mission-critical elements of your plan, never as afterthoughts. Don’t be the health system that’s down for three days and operating on paper because a cyberattack or natural disaster hit and you lacked adequate continuity strategies. Our team of advisors can leverage experience from across industries to make sure you’re prepared for threats and unexpected events from all angles.
  • Be sure all of your inputs are secure! Medical devices and the expanding “IoT of Healthcare” create increased attack vectors that cyber criminals are actively looking to exploit. Secure your endpoints and data sources—not just data that is at rest or in transit. Our cybersecurity advisers can make sure your security fabric has the right processes and technology in place for those critical jobs.
  • Your data architecture must also be able to support the ever-increasing number of data sources and types produced by the IoT of Healthcare. Examples include increasingly important images, video and sensor data from medical devices and other connected technology. Use our ATC Lab Services to select data infrastructure that meets your defined objectives by letting you easily compare alternative solutions, simulate real workloads on-site or virtually, perform stress tests and develop proofs of concept.

Preparing data for transformation

  • As more data become available from sensors and smart devices, you need a hardware-to-software integration strategy that allows you to meaningfully leverage captured data. WWT's Application Services team of software engineers and developers are hardware-to-software integration experts with experience in healthcare and many other industries.
  • Finally, with a growing range of data inputs, the need for exceptional data governance, quality and management has never been more important. If your data scientists spend most of their time cleaning up data, they aren’t generating insights that can improve care, patient and clinician experiences, and overall operations—all of which can save lives. Let WWT’s Business and Analytics Advisors help you optimize processes and policies to make sure your data are in the optimal state for deployment in your transformative use cases.

Time to refine

Once you have a strategy to develop quality raw data, you need a plan to refine that data into insights that can improve care and outcomes. Some target areas to consider refinement include genomics, proteomics, microbiomics, radiology and pathology imaging AI augmentation, and personalized treatments like personalized radiotherapy. Which of these are key to your overall strategy and where do they fall on your roadmap and priorities?

Make sure your infrastructure architecture provides the right storage, computing power and software tools. Without the right hardware and software, you may be locked out of emerging or game-changing technology advancements. WWT can help you leverage the capabilities of our ATC to make the right technology choices without breaking the bank.

Actionable insights

Once you’ve developed actionable insights from your refined data, you need to ensure those insights can be delivered to the right clinicians at the right time and place to drive improved patient care and outcomes. Insights should be delivered before each project starts, and you should aim to track clinical decisions and measure results.

Never be afraid to stop and recalibrate. Iteration and continuous improvement are keys to long-term success and sustainable, exceptional results. Our agile coaches have guided successful transformation journeys for some of the world’s largest organizations and are available to guide you in your journey.

Getting started

I hope these thoughts around data strategy will spur much discussion in your organization. Send me your thoughts and let me know of any additional advice you’d give to a colleague or healthcare system starting on this journey.

Veritas also has a great information that shows where some of their tools can fit into your data strategy.

Let’s improve healthcare together!