Healthcare: everyone needs it, it’s a rapidly technologizing industry, and it produces immense amounts of data every day. To get a sense of where analytics fit into this vital market, I got on the phone with Hamza Jap-Tjong, CEO and Co-Founder of GeriMedica Inzicht, a GeriMedica subsidiary. GeriMedica is a multi-disciplinary electronic medical record (EMR) company servicing the elderly care market and as such, their SaaS platform is filled with data of all kinds. Recently, they rolled out analytics that practitioners could use to improve the quality of care (vs the prior main use case in healthcare analytics, which was done by the billing and finance departments). This helps keep practitioners focused on helping patients vs spending (wasting) hours in a software product. Hamza and I spoke about the state of healthcare analytics, how it can improve care for patients, and where the industry is going.
The State of Healthcare Analytics
As previously mentioned, the healthcare industry creates tons of data every day from a wide array of sources.
“I think tons of data might be an understatement,” says Hamza, citing a Stamford study. “They were talking about data on the scale of exabytes (where each exabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). Where doesn’t that data come from? Fitbits, iPhones, fitness devices on your person… healthcare data is scattered everywhere: not only treatment plans and records created by practitioners, but also stored in machines (X-rays, photographs, etc.).”
Data is the new oil, but without the right tools, the insights locked in that data can’t help anyone. At present, few healthcare organizations (let alone frontline practitioners) are taking advantage of the data at their disposal to improve patient care. Moreover, these teams are dealing with amounts of information so vast that they are impossible to make sense of without help (like from a BI or analytics platform). They also can’t combine these datasets to gain a complete picture without help, either. Current software offerings, even if they have some analytical capabilities for the data that they capture, often can’t mash it up with other datasets.
“In my opinion, we could really improve the data gathering,” Hamza says. “As well as the way we use that data to improve patient care. What we know is that when you look at doctors, nurses, physical therapists, everybody close to the care process, close to the patient, is hankering for data and insights and analytics and we see that there isn’t at the moment a tool that is good enough or easy enough for them to use to gain the insights that they are looking for.”
Additionally, the current generation of medical software has a high barrier to entry/learning curve when it comes to getting useful insights out. All these obstacles prevent caregivers from helping clients as much as they might with easier-to-use analytics.
Improving Patient Care (and Improving Analytics for Practitioners)
Analytics and insight-mining systems have huge potential to improve patient care. Again, healthcare data is too massive for humans to handle unaided. However, there’s hope: Hamza mentioned that AI systems were already being used in medical settings to aggregate research and present an array of options to practitioners without them having to dig through numerous sources themselves.
“A doctor or a nurse does not work nine-to-five. They work long shifts and their whole mindset is focused on solving the mystery and helping the patient. They do not have time to scour through all kinds of tables and numbers. They want an easy-to-understand dashboard that tells a story from A-to-Z in one glance and answers their question.”
This is a huge opportunity for software and analytics companies to help improve patient care and user experience. Integrating easy-to-understand dashboards and analytics tools within medical software lowers the barrier to entry and serves up insights that practitioners can use to make better decisions. The next step is also giving clinicians tools to build their own dashboards to answer their own questions.
The Future of Healthcare Analytics
Many healthcare providers might not know how much analytics could be improving their lives and the care they give their patients. But they certainly know that they’re spending a lot of time gathering information and putting it into systems (and, again, that they have a ton of data). This is slowly changing today and will only accelerate as time goes on. The realization of how much a powerful analytics and BI system could help them with data gathering, insight harvesting, and providing better care will drive more organizations to start using a software’s analytics capabilities as a factor in their future buying decisions.
Additionally, just serving up insights won’t be enough. As analytics become more mainstreamed, users will want the power to dig into data themselves, perform ad hoc analyses, and design their own dashboards. With the right tools and training, even frontline users like doctors and nurses can be empowered to become builders, creating their own dashboards to answer the questions that matter most to them.
“We have doctors who are designers,” Hamza says. “They are designing their own dashboards using our entire dataset, combining millions of rows and records to get the answers that they are looking for.”
Builders are everywhere. Just as the healthcare space is shifting away from only using analytics in financial departments and putting insights into the hands of frontline practitioners, the right tools democratize the ability to create new dashboards and even interactive analytics widgets and empower anyone within an organization to get the answers and build the tools they need.
Creating Better Experiences
When it comes to the true purpose of healthcare analytics, Hamza summed it up perfectly: “In the end, it’s all about helping end users create a better experience.”
The staggering volume of data that the healthcare industry creates presents a huge opportunity for analytics to find patterns and insights and improve the lives of patients. As datasets become more massive and the analytical questions become more challenging, healthcare teams will rely more and more on the analytics embedded within their EMR systems and other software. This will lead them to start using the presence (or lack thereof) and quality of those analytics when making buying decisions. Software companies that understand this will build solutions that answer questions and save lives; the ones that don’t might end up flatlining.
Jack Cieslak is a 10-year veteran of the tech world. He’s written for Amazon, CB Insights, and others, on topics ranging from ecommerce and VC investments to crazy product launches and top-secret startup projects.