CIO reflections from HIMSS18: What to do with all that EHR data

The HIMSS18 Global Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada was once again a delight to attend and exchange thought leadership among fellow colleagues. It seemed that thousands of vendors promoted services and solutions, all with the intent of facilitating better patient care, advancements in research, safer work environments and more efficient organizations.  

At the core of many of these offerings is data, and in some cases vast amounts of Big Data. Patient monitoring systems, wearables, patient reported outcomes, and new research algorithms are just a few of those offerings which transmit large streams of data.  Almost as befuddling to the Information Services executive as attempting to navigate the HIMSS18 vendor floor is what to do with all of this data.  The challenge is multi-faceted and despite the claims of many in the vendor community; not easily addressed.  

As I see it, large-scale data management fits the classic people, process and technology umbrella.  Many vendors indicate the technology component can be easily addressed. Simply sign up to procure large amounts of data storage, either through their on-premise or cloud offering, and you have solved your problem. 

Unfortunately, it’s never that easy.

The challenges associated with marrying the resources and processes to drive measurable and actionable outcomes remains. In addition, the funding of large-scale data management is often unfamiliar territory for many organizations. Consequently, prioritizing budgets for data management is often difficult with other competing organizational requirements.  Engaging operational leaders in order to truly understand the value of these data-related investment requests and holding requestors accountable for the anticipated results is far more difficult than evaluating more traditional investments.  

So, what is an Information Services executive to do with the fan-fare of data-driven innovation lurking just ahead?  

Educate – leadership is often familiar with the attributes and management of basic data repositories, but not entirely sure of the technical and operational intricacies associated with big data.  Areas requiring initial education include back-up and storage expenses, proper tools to liberate the data, how best to secure the data and the opportunity cost of not prioritizing alternative investments.  

Prioritize – With many across your organization believing that their request is the silver bullet to institutional success, having the proper governance in place to assist in prioritizing and ensuring focus on the identified project is critical.

Engage Operations – Aligning the operational workflow and resources to drive value out of the data requires a significant partnership between operational leadership and information services.  Having well-defined goals and objectives associated with the utilization of the data will keep everyone aligned and understanding of the adjustments that will be required to attain success.  

Measure and Report – In a new environment with theoretical benefits substantiating investments, keeping score and reporting on the project success is critical for leadership to understand future investments in big data.  

Other industries have highlighted and touted individual big data efforts that have advanced their organization’s cause. Healthcare organizations have observed these successes and look to replicate them in order to advance their organization’s mission. As indicated, leveraging big data is perilous and often fraught with failure.  

Working closely with leadership to identify, prioritize and focus on selected projects is just one way to increase your chance for success.

Mike Restuccia is the CIO of Penn Medicine.

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