9 March 2021

How better data management can negate rising healthcare costs

COVID-19 Finance KnowCents Technology

COVID has taken a lot from us, but something it has given back is enormous volumes of data.

Throughout the world, across a range of industries, that data is being collected, analysed and served up to organisations and governments hungry to understand what’s happening.

The healthcare sector is no exception.

Vast quantities of health data are generated in Australia every day, stemming from a variety of patient sources such as wearable devices, medical appointments, tests and results, as well as medicines taken. With the rapid roll out of the COVID vaccination program, the country’s healthcare system is being put to the test in terms of its capacity to ingest and analyse significant volumes of patient data.

Making best use of pandemic data

As Australians receive their COVID vaccinations, the large amounts of data streaming into healthcare organisations and government departments provides an opportunity to get ahead of tracking and record keeping for better insights and analytics.

For example, for healthcare providers there is huge potential for using data to promote population health initiatives and coordinate overall patient care. Healthcare providers can also benefit from data and analytics in the following ways:

  • By leveraging revenue cycle processes throughout the care continuum to ensure appropriate reimbursements for vaccinations.
  • By pulling data from streaming vitals if we reach a point where vaccination records can be maintained on wearables, phones or other connected devices.
  • By using data to improve care coordination. For example, if a patient visits a physician with COVID symptoms, the doctor can verify whether they have received the vaccine to determine appropriate testing and treatment plans.
  • By reporting back to pharmaceutical companies detailed, secure patient information about unusual vaccine side effects that may not have been revealed during clinical trials.
  • By integrating vaccination data with data from other sources, a more complete and accurate picture can be created to understand behaviour. For example, if certain groups are avoiding getting vaccinated, the insights can help uncover contributing factors that may need addressing to improve engagement.

By adopting an enterprise data cloud strategy, data from diverse and disparate sources can be collected, connected and managed through the full data lifecycle from the edge to cloud in a secure and governed way.

This capability served Statistics NZ well during the pandemic. Having previously undertaken a digital transformation project that included a focus on data access and integration, the agency was well positioned to ingest and process data from a range of businesses. It was able to harness real time insights to inform the NZ Government on issues like public response and the impact on key infrastructure, like broadband networks, during lockdown.

Why better data management is critical for patients and providers

The healthcare ecosystem is in a state of convergence as the industry is leaning towards value-based healthcare focusing on positive patient outcomes while driving down costs and eliminating waste and abuse. 

In an environment where information exists at the touch of a button, patients have high expectations for transparency in terms of procedures and pricing, and access to personal health information, to enable informed treatment choices. Providers must deliver care faster, better and within a framework of rigorous quality, compliance, and cost containment guidelines. Drug and medical device makers are under pressure to deliver critical therapies quickly while ensuring safety, efficacy, and affordability. 

Whilst Australia is renowned for providing excellent care, spending on health is higher than the OECD average and continues to rise. Driving out inefficiency should be high on the country’s healthcare agenda and improved data collection and analysis will be a factor, as discussed in a paper by the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance. 

Australia’s large and disjointed healthcare system comprises a range of service providers and organisations, all collecting and using health data, however the full potential of this data cannot be realised while it is managed in siloes. One of the country’s main challenges when it comes to getting the most value out of its healthcare data is to combine disparate data sets for a much clearer picture of the patient journey.

Leading healthcare organizations worldwide are adopting an enterprise data strategy to manage the data journey, from taking in raw data at the source to driving actionable insights back to the point of care. The availability of more quality information will make it easier for medical professionals to meet patient expectations and deliver better outcomes in a more cost and time effective way.

Collaboration will be key to deriving data value

The Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council recently gave grants to a number of initiatives aimed at advancing health policy and practice in Australia. One of these research projects is focused on unifying and quality assuring disparate health silos with a common data model, the researcher believes it will have significant benefits to general practice as well as the country’s medical research community.

As this research project will undoubtedly demonstrate, there is significant scope to gain more out of the health data Australia is already generating. Collaboration and interoperability between systems will be an important part of this, as recently discussed by a panel of health experts.

A collaborative approach also means that advanced data analysis and actionable insights are not only the domain of large, wealthy healthcare providers. For example, Clearsense, a customer and partner of Cloudera in the US, has developed a product that streams patient data from various sources into one cohesive enterprise data cloud where they can run analytics, machine learning and AI and provide clinical decision support at the point of care along with information to support financial and operational decision making. The product is made available via a subscription service. This is providing social benefits to small, rural communities where local healthcare providers can leverage this technology and reap the benefits of it, without a major up-front investment.

Leveraging the enterprise data cloud for better health outcomes

The conversation in the healthcare sector no longer focuses on whether predictive analytics impacts outcomes but rather where and how they impact it. With enterprise data cloud technology Australia’s healthcare community can do more with its data to harness insights and drive better and more cost-efficient outcomes.

Nick Hoskins is the Country Manager for Cloudera Australia and New Zealand.

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