Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Increased Demands for BI within Healthcare IT

What is driving the demand for BI and analytic professionals within healthcare?

The Stimulus Act of 2009
Well, let's step back in time to 2008 when Americans elected Barack Obama as president.

Within a year, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as ARRA or "the Stimulus." This act contained incentives for healthcare professionals and organizations working with Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements (Medicare being our government program to provide financial assistance for healthcare to the elderly while Medicaid is for the poor).

One basic requirement was to start using Electronic Health Record (EHR) packages. Following the Stimulus, the government certified EHR packages from various software vendors, such as ALERT, Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, MEDITECH, and Siemens. Because the government would start paying incentives in 2011 (and imposing penalties for Medicare non-compliance in 2015), many healthcare organizations quickly started implementing these EHR packages.

The demand for professionals specializing in EHR implementations skyrocketed.

In addition to driving the demand to implement certified EHR packages, the Stimulus also created regional Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) for the electronic sharing of health records. You are also seeing a demand for Personal Health Records, where the patients themselves store important health information.

(See this story about a doctor using Facebook personal healthcare data to save a woman who had fallen into a coma.)

Our first wave was the electronic collection and sharing of structured health information. Healthcare organizations get the reimbursement incentives if they can prove "Meaningful Use" of these EHR systems, which is a basic reporting functionality.

The government rolled out the MU rules in three stages, with requirements for Stage 2 just recently finalized.  The website Healthcare IT News talks about the demand for "Meaningful Use" consultants based on the findings reported in a recent KLAS Research document.

I was recently involved with a Meaningful Use dashboard for a healthcare delivery system. The idea is that you must collect certain "Clinical Quality Measures," which are pieces of information for different chronic diseases. Common data items for most chronic diseases would include smoking status, blood pressure, and LDL counts. Some chronic diseases would have unique CQMs, such as tracking foot exams for diabetes patients.

The dashboard dynamically generated stoplight scorecard views of the various CQMs based on the user selections. The user could select information shown by either the physicians or patients and for a particular chronic disease. Green stoplights indicated a positive Meaningful Use while yellows and reds pointed out a problem that needed to be addressed if reimbursement was to happen.

The government incentives for implementing EHR and demonstrating Meaningful Use provide us with the foundation for analyzing healthcare data and improving health outcomes. We are still in the early stages of this technology.

The next wave of this EHR and HIE trend, however, will be more advanced intelligence and analytics for healthcare.

In addition to governmental influences, healthcare organizations must respond to the same disruptive changes hitting other organizations: Big Data, Social Media, the Cloud, Mobile, Predictive Analytics, and modernizing Legacy technologies.

If you are in the BI software space, hold on tight because the next decade will be a fast and bumpy ride.


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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.