How Visual Analytics Can Boost Asia’s Healthcare Immune System

Study confirms that utilization of business intelligence and analytics platforms results in better decision-making across all segments of a healthcare organization.

Healthcare is a costly affair. It is a fact in both developed and developing countries that needs no second opinion. As the world continues to age, we need to swallow an even more bitter pill: healthcare costs are only going to increase. As life expectancy increases, so too does the amount we have to pay in order to sustain a good, healthy quality of life. Try stomaching this: the World Economic Forum recently stated that “the costs of healthcare have outpaced economic growth by an average of two percent in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for the last 50 years”. Furthermore, findings from the 2014 Towers Watson Global Medical Trends Survey revealed that the cost of employee medical benefits in Asia Pacific increased by 8.8 per cent in 2013 and 9.3 per cent in 2014, higher than general wage increments. Even more matured healthcare markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong are not spared, and are also consistently witnessing surges of eight to nine percent. Visual analytics: A prescription for smart healthcare to reduce costs The wave of escalating healthcare costs is sweeping the globe and Asia. Thankfully, governments are already taking action – policies involving health insurance and provident funds have been implemented to help the general populace defray costs, while preventive measures such as awareness campaigns wage war on detrimental lifestyle habits. Such remedies are crucial for any nation; however, they are unfortunately long-term solutions with minimal immediate relief.

On a more micro, local level, leveraging technology and data analytics to practise “smart healthcare” can result in more immediate and tangible returns. The explosion of information and intelligence is being fuelled by the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable tech. This makes the argument for healthcare institutions to utilise data-driven decision-making even more compelling.
According to IDC, the worldwide market for wearables will burgeon to approximately 112 million units by 2018, marking a sixfold increase from 19 million units in 2014. An estimated 9.1 billion IoT units were installed globally as at the end of 2013, and IDC is predicting this to be at a 17.5 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) to 28.1 billion in 2020. As for data analytics, a recent study conducted by Qlik and HIMSS Analytics found that healthcare organisations are leveraging data to drive efficiencies in patient care delivery. The study, which surveyed 400 respondents, including C-suites and director level contacts also confirms that implementation and utilisation of business intelligence (BI) and analytics platforms results in better decision-making across all segments of a healthcare organisation. Fifty-six percent of healthcare organisations, the early adopters of BI platforms, managed to improve overall patient care and significantly reduce healthcare costs, while meeting reporting requirements and driving new opportunities to enhance population health. In addition, 48 percent have been able to make faster and more accurate decisions, while 47 percent believe the use of BI and analytics platforms result in cost savings. The study also found that healthcare organisations are seeking analytics investments that unlock additional value, as the value of BI and analytics become more widely understood among decision makers.
Integrating BI and analytics solutions with existing applications and systems is a top investment priority with 36 percent of respondents citing further investment plans in the next 12-24 months. Dashboard development and predictive analytics were the two other top investment priorities with 36 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Data analytics adoption ailments of the industry and the cure As the study substantiates, BI and analytics platforms enhance abilities for healthcare organisation executives, clinicians and health professionals to see what is actually happening within their organisation and across all departments. However, implementing a BI and analytics solution doesn’t come without challenges. Among the top barriers to healthcare organisations fully realising the potential of BI and analytics platforms (with 42 percent responding) is end-user adoption. The lack of data quality (41 percent) and challenges related to aggregating disparate data sources (27 percent) leaves decision-makers having to rely on outdated spreadsheets and manual processes to analyse data. In addition, limitations of clinical workflow integration (29 percent), dashboard capabilities (27 percent), reporting capabilities (26 percent), cultural resistance (22 percent) and solution integration (20 percent) are also factors that hinder deployment of data analytics. With the exception of cultural factors, the common symptoms that affects healthcare institutes’ efficient data-driven decision-making can be distilled into three broad categories that directly pertains to: data governance, users, and characteristics of the BI software such as its dashboard features and functionality. Collectively, the symptoms are known as the data analytics syndrome and it can be solved by harnessing a modern visual analytics platform. Here’s what to look out for when shopping ‘over-the-counter’ for such software: Data governance: Today, the term visual analytics – the use of illustrations such as charts and graphs to interactively visualise and analyse information – is bound to surface in conversations relating to BI, data analytics or big data. However, visuals only comprise one piece of the puzzle. The bigger picture and key problem organizations face is how the influx of disparate, internal and external, data can be managed to allow for near real-time analysis. When deploying such projects, organisations should also consider if their BI platform allows them to scale, as successful data analytics initiatives will eventually grow in size and complexity. The user: With the increasing volume of data and the value that collective human intelligence brings to any business and organisation, data analysis is no longer limited to data scientists of the world. It is essential that use of a visual analytics platform requires minimal training and removes the guesswork required by users. In some cases, the choice to opt for guided analytics software would be a value-add for any organisation, as these offerings are simple enough for the average person, yet provide maximum analytics capabilities for them to obtain the insights they require to monitor and improve organisational, departmental and individual performance. The BI software: An agnostic platform-based visual analytics approach that seamlessly integrates with existing systems to provide near real-time, on-demand, accurate access is key to addressing the data analytics needs of any healthcare organisation. The platform must also be designed, and remain agile enough, to help users gain actionable insights. For example, algorithms based on an associative model enables users to see the whole story behind all their data, allowing them to discover hidden insights through the display of peripheral information. In healthcare, it is often these ‘hidden insights’ that reap the maximum reward!
In essence, while long-term remedies such as healthcare policies and awareness campaign can help to defray rising healthcare costs, smart healthcare that is driven by visual analytics can help to realise cost-savings and drive efficiencies in a shorter timeframe, all the while ensuring the patient population receives the best care, the first time.
However, pain points pertaining to data governance, users, and characteristics of the BI software continue to be barriers of implementing an effective data analytics programme. The solution lies in harnessing a modern visual analytics platform that can manage disparate data, is easy-to-use, agile to meet all user needs, and adopts an agnostic platform-based approach. The platform-based visual analytics approach should ideally seamlessly integrate with existing systems, complementing their value to the organisation, to allow users to glean insights by enabling them to see the whole story behind all their data. Farah is the Director, Market Development, Healthcare & Public Sector, Qlik Asia Pacific


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