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Health care looks to increase its 'business intelligence'

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 06, 2011
Laura Madsen
Accountable care organizations and later meaningful use stages will require providers to marshal vast quantities of data to meet government requirements. And for many hospitals and clinical groups, data are in a bad state: siloed, buried under redundant entries, and rarely integrated into a single, workable form that executives can use and act upon.

This represents what health care consultant Laura Madsen refers to as the "perfect storm" for the data-centric management philosophy known as business intelligence.

The founder of next week's Healthcare Business Intelligence Summit and the author of a forthcoming book on the topic, Madsen serves as health care practice leader for Lancet Software, a BI consulting firm. She has more than 15 years experience in the field, and has helped dozens of companies with BI initiatives.

Recently, she spoke with DOTmed News about what BI is and why it might be coming to health care in a big way.

DOTmed Business News: To start with, what exactly is business intelligence and why is this becoming more important for health care?

Laura Madsen: I think if you Google business intelligence you get about 3 million hits, and most of them are rather odd, and not very helpful, descriptions of what BI can do.

For me, what BI is, is integrating data from disparate source systems into a visually appealing user interface, so that end users can make better decisions with data. So what does that mean from a usability perspective? There are all kinds of examples of what business intelligence has done for organizations.

In retail, they use it to determine what they're going to put on their shelves. They use a lot of it in coordinating with their customer service manager, to send you very specific coupons. So if you've bought diapers in the last three weeks, they know that you're going to continue to need diapers. So they'll send you coupons for diapers and other baby products.

Hospitals have been using business intelligence in a different way. For example, we're definitely late to the game from an adoption perspective in health care. But if you've been to a hospital recently, a lot of them have flat screen TVs up in the waiting room, that have queues on them, to tell you where your loved one is in the process of getting a procedure done. That's driven by data, that's driven by BI. The billboards we see saying, "6-minute wait times at St. John's," that's BI driving those things.

DMBN: In health care, where is BI most prevalent?

Madsen: If we would categorize maturity level against other industries, like retail and finance, we are behind the times, so to speak. If you categorize it within health care itself, payers versus providers, I would say that payers are pretty well advanced compared to their provider counterparts. And obviously ACOs will force that issue quite a bit.

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