Healthcare still lags behind data warehousing curve

January 28, 2002

Given the healthcare industry's general state of immaturity in the use of business intelligence, HIMSS asked its members how important data warehousing is to the support of effective decision-making. The 38 respondents had titles ranging from chief

Given the healthcare industry's general state of immaturity in the use of business intelligence, HIMSS asked its members how important data warehousing is to the support of effective decision-making.

The 38 respondents had titles ranging from chief information officer to director of data management, director of decision support, and director of information systems. They were largely uncertain, however, about the strategic importance of data warehousing (41%).

Only 21% viewed data warehousing as critical to decision support, while 32% viewed the process as very important.

"It would seem that the benefits of integrated information resources and analytical capabilities as a prerequisite to success have still not risen in the healthcare corporate mindset," said Jason D. Oliveira, manager of Kurt Salmon Associates in New York City.

HIMSS then inquired about the general prevalence of data warehousing solutions in the healthcare industry. Of those responding, 53% claim to have fully integrated data warehousing solutions that support different subject areas that share common data tables or are supplied data from an integrated corporate data warehouse. Among the most popular analytical applications:

?finance (50%)
?operations (46%)
?budgeting (42%)
?cost accounting (38%)
?clinical research (35%)


Data warehouses are therefore still primarily financial in nature, although they are increasingly being employed in clinical research, performance management, physician profiling, and other clinical and operation applications.

The remaining 47% of the respondents continue to use independent analytical databases and applications that support different subject areas that do not share any common data.

"Healthcare has made progress in moving to integrated data warehousing and analytical solutions, but half of the industry still uses fragmented and nonintegrated data management solutions for supporting corporate decision support," Oliveira said.

In order to better understand the extent and success of the usage of data warehousing by the healthcare industry, a HIMSS data warehousing and data mining Special Interest Group (SIG) recently sponsored a survey designed to assess the prevalence of these practices. The results were released in at HIMSS this week.

"Healthcare organizations operate in a hostile environment, as do all businesses in competitive industries," Oliveira said.

In their mission to master the healthcare market, organizations are devising and attempting to implement various corporate strategies: consolidation, disease management, revenue enhancement, or business and clinical process redesign.

"Many healthcare organizations are new to these competitive business pressures when compared with banking, retail, and other traditionally competitive industries," Oliveira said. "As a result, these organizations find during their attempt to master markets that they have failed to master their own corporate information."

In general, healthcare organizations lack the information foundation and the capabilities to analyze it in support of their business and clinical strategies, he said.