“Big Data” Can Be a Big Threat – If You’re Not Prepared to Control It
Imagine a day where “Big Data” isn’t some abstract concept that costs you money and resources but is a vital component to your lab’s success as a source of revenue.
Well, that day was yesterday. Competitors are understanding that the abundance of data is meaningless unless you know how to manage it and know how to turn it from a money pit into a solid revenue stream. Do you remember the old joke about “The Golden Rule,” as in “He who has the gold, makes the rules?” Well, whoever owns the data, makes the gold. If big data escapes your control or you just give up on it because it’s complicated (spoiler alert: it is complicated), you are going to be at the mercy of a changing market that will charge you a premium for something essential to your business. We see this challenge everywhere with many hospitals and lab organizations; those who understand the magnitude of big data’s importance will move to build a data warehouse, normalize it, store it logically, and then build a system that allows the organization’s personnel to pull data sets.
An Asset, Not an Obstacle
Industry discussions at key conventions and meetings, including American Clinical Laboratory Association and Executive War College, have focused attention on this epic change coming to lab payments and billing. As sure as the sun rises, we are moving away from the fee-for-service model.
The first step is changing your view of big data: Instead of looking at it as a big obstacle, see it as a big asset. I’ve seen half-hearted attempts to create a data warehouse of patient information that dies on the vine several times in the course of trying to standardize it all. Then the whole idea behind it slips away and there you are, paying a third-party vendor for something you should not only have unlimited access to, but should be able to sell and leverage. What I see in the lab space is a situation where there is a lot of data in the company’s grasp: LIS/LIMS data, billing data, interfaced data, etc. The problem is that by its very nature it is cumbersome to extract, transform, and make it useful to the professionals working on it, and for the clients being served. We recently had an experience working with a large healthcare system that is foretelling. They had just acquired another hospital and were growing, and we were brought in to architect the data extraction. They needed to take a year’s worth of data out of their billing/financial system to supply reports in a specific format to handle Medicare and third-party pricing, all while being government-compliant. They had the data, but couldn’t really get to it, and certainly couldn’t do anything easily with it. This healthcare system committed to setting it everything up under their own roof, and they will forever benefit from that going forward.
The Better Option
The answer to this and so many other questions is a managed, in-house business-controlled and owned data warehouse with a lab management team that makes cost-effective use of that warehouse. Most importantly, this provides the patient better, and more accurate care. (For those being truly proactive, there is another crucial element: Proper training. I always recommend taking the extra step of training all medical personnel on at least understanding that the answers lie in the data, if not how to access it directly themselves.)
Yes, this is an investment, and yes, it’s a significant one. Few organizations can prepare for this change with their internal personnel. So, what should you look for to prepare you for the future that is already here? Some will want to “help” you, but be careful – especially if that help involves them controlling your data, building their own warehouse with your data, and using proprietary technology that puts it all under their security. Suddenly, you’re beholden to them, paying them for something that was originally yours. The wiser move is to partner with a company that simply extracts the data, transforms it, and stores it all within your environment. At U.S. HealthTek, our stance is that we don’t want your data! What we do want is to build it within your jurisdiction so you can efficiently call up what you need, when you need it, and let you retain full ownership.
Understand what is happening now. Understand what clients want. Understand the value of this revenue stream. Understand how Medicare, Medicaid, and compliance issues can be dealt with more efficiently, with proper filters that you control. Understand that instead of being the customer in all this, you can be the vendor, turning what was once in the red column in your financial books into the black column.
The bus is leaving the station. Will you be on it?