Using Data in Health Analytics

Over the past few years, so-called “big data” has started making its mark on sectors as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing, fashion, schools, entertainment and nonprofit organizations. In health care, however, a lack of adequate analytics capabilities has so far left the use of potentially beneficial data out of reach for some organizations.

But capabilities for using data in health analytics are changing rapidly as technology advances and enables quality improvements and cost reductions. In a number of ways, the field of health care is moving toward a data-driven model.

The Rise of the Enterprise Data Warehouse

The potential for using data in health analytics lies in the ability to increase the quality and efficiency of care while controlling costs. One technology driving the move toward widespread data use is the enterprise data warehouse, which enables analysis of enterprise-wide data through clinical, financial and operational lenses.

Enterprise data warehouses collect and analyze broad data sets, allowing health care providers to develop a deeper understanding of patients and all the factors that affect care. The technology can help health care organizations uncover and correct waste in delivery processes.

Despite many potential benefits of enterprise data warehouses, many health care organizations — more than nine in 10 — do not yet use the technology. However, adoption and beneficial use is growing in the industry.

Movement to the Cloud


A 2014 Forbes article found that more than 80 percent of IT executives in health care report using cloud services. Another 9 percent plan to use cloud services, while 6 percent do not intend to use them.

Health care organizations are moving to cloud services for a number of reasons, including more effectively using data in health analytics. Organizations are experiencing a number of benefits from using cloud services:

  • Increases in technological capabilities
  • Faster deployment times
  • Better financial outcomes
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Improved data security and regulatory compliance
  • More efficient business processes

Cloud services in health care commonly support data-based functions, including hosting of clinical data and applications, data backup and recovery, and exchange of health information. More than 37 percent of organizations surveyed are using private cloud architecture, while just over 23 percent use public clouds and 36.3 percent use a model that combines public and private elements.

Many organizations incorporate cloud-based applications for hosting data related to human resources, finance, operations, and clinical and back-office functions. More than 21 percent of organizations noted that they use cloud-based applications in more than five departments.

What’s Next for Data in Health Analytics?

The health care analytics market is expected to increase by 25 percent each year through 2019, according to a 2014 iHealthBeat report. A number of factors are expected to contribute to the global growth in health care analytics:

  • Mandates for centralizing health care around the world
  • Growth in the fields of prescriptive and predictive analytics
  • Increasing investments by venture capital firms
  • Increasing adoption of technology in the health care field
  • The growing use of big data
  • The increasing digitization of commerce on a global scale
  • Quickly advancing technologies that provide a stream of new growth opportunities

North America constitutes the largest share of the worldwide health care analytics market, the report found, in part due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the recent changeover to ICD-10 Standards.

In addition, the 2009 economic stimulus package provided Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments for health care providers that demonstrate significant use of electronic health records. These and other mandates are helping drive adoption of both electronic health records and health care information exchanges that promote using data in health analytics.

Improving Quality, Reducing Costs

As the use of data in health analytics increasingly permeates the health care sector, organizations are expected to see improvements in efficiency and quality of care as they reduce costs. Patients can expect to reap benefits in better health outcomes and reduced financial outlays for care.