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Finding Big Health Answers in the Cloud

Why the HIPAA-compliant cloud is the new destination for healthcare analytics

“All dressed up and nowhere to go.” That pretty much sums up a good deal of the healthcare data being collected today, especially data that holds life-saving answers to questions that have long confounded physicians and researchers. To date, much of this information—acquired from EHRs, medical devices, and patient accounting systems, to name just a few sources—remains untapped. Yet what’s stopping it from going to a place of usable, actionable insight is surprisingly simple to overcome. Read on to learn how healthcare organizations can finally bridge the gap between having data for analytics and actually using it for that purpose.

Challenges with internal analytics

Some of the smartest people in the field of medicine have been involved in “Big Health Data” initiatives, from clinical research projects to population health management. Yet time and again, some familiar issues surface to sabotage their efforts.

The primary barrier is that implementing an internal analytics solution costs a lot of money, time and well-honed people skills. This starts with aggregating the needed data from multiple entities, each with different requirements and politics—a process that can take anywhere from six months to several years, and cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. This is before the end-user analytics and visualization components of the system are even added, but rest assured, they will require similar expenditures in funding and effective people management.

Despite all this effort and money spent, most data warehousing projects—a full 70 percent—are destined for failure. In consideration of the above, you can probably see why. This leads to another very real risk: when such projects don’t deliver the ROI or other hoped-for results, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone on board again for a new capital-intensive data initiative.

Analytics in the cloud

Having a neutral place to store, manage and analyze Big Health Data goes a long way in giving these projects what they need to succeed. And that’s what a health-dedicated cloud services provider can offer, plus some extra (and extra important) benefits.

The first cumbersome requirement to be dispatched with is the need to build an internal data warehouse altogether, as now data can be pulled in from different systems and uploaded into the cloud. An experienced healthcare cloud services provider will have the capability to normalize this data for access by all approved parties—and since HIPAA privacy will be paramount, also know how to de-identify the protected health information of patients.

Where a HIPAA-compliant cloud services provider that specializes in healthcare really makes the difference, however, is an ability to offer several options for analytics capabilities through partner networks. Rather than making half-informed guesses about what will be needed—and end up stuck with a solution that’s too basic or too complex—healthcare organizations can try an analytics application on a trial basis. If the solution works well, the work continues. If tweaks are needed, such as new features or more data storage, a cloud analytics solution can scale at an ease and speed that internal solutions simply can’t.

No more extensive reworking of back-end systems. And no more staggering upfront costs. Analytics is now a manageable operational expense instead of a budget-breaking capital investment.

Finally, expect all data to come in on a more timely and regular basis now that all partners in the initiative have a neutral place to send it. This feature alone can transform the data project, as concerns about allowing any one partner to have “control” over the data are permanently alleviated.

Achieving success

Healthcare organizations today have a wealth of data at their fingertips. Without the analytics to make sense of it, however, it’s like owning a great wardrobe and never leaving the house. A HIPAA-compliant cloud services provider that offers health-tailored analytics tools can help organizations analyze and apply this data to make the world a healthier place for all.