Data in Healthcare – Advanced Analytics for Better Health Outcomes 

By Antonio De Castro, Senior Industry Consultant, SAS

The global healthcare industry is undergoing tremendous change. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced providers, insurers, regulators and patients alike to rethink the way healthcare services are delivered.

Important advances already underway in healthcare technology have been accelerated by the pressure of the pandemic. These include the development of advanced analytics platforms leveraging unprecedented amounts of health data. The number and scope of connected systems in a healthcare organisation has grown dramatically – a hospital today can deploy more than a hundred systems that need to communicate with one another.

Realising the importance of electronic health records and the opportunity to improve population health through data analysis, Southeast Asia is making progress with centralised health data platforms like Singapore’s National Electronic Health Records (NEHR) and the Philippine Health Information Exchange (PHIE).

Interoperability to drive the future

Interoperability, connecting all sources of information, will continue to be an important driving force behind an efficient healthcare organisation.

According to the definition given by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), “Interoperability is the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (systems) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organisational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimise the health of individuals and populations globally.”

When a healthcare system’s data silo walls are broken and data can be accessed and combined more easily, data analytics can be done seamlessly, driving better decisions and ultimately resulting in better health outcomes. For this to happen, there needs to be improved collaboration between health care payers and providers.

A secure and interoperable data platform unlocks many possibilities for healthcare organisations to operationalise their data. For example, streamlined reporting keeps track of KPIs across the organisation, leading eventually to a move from reactive to preventive care. Another benefit is medical resource optimisation – freeing up bed capacity and directing patients to more appropriate care. Also, automating alert systems gives medical staff the right information at the right time for faster decision-making.

For example, SAS’ advanced analytics platform helped Los Angeles County deliver better patient care across their 26 health centres, 4 acute care hospitals and more than 100 community partner clinics, helping to track effectiveness of healthcare programmes to hospital spending.

These few examples will help reduce errors, improve care delivery, enhance health risk predictions and – most excitingly – push towards personalised care with AI and analytics.

The opportunity goes beyond the hospital level, as governments could also potentially integrate other sources of data, such as environmental and social determinants, to deliver a holistic assessment of the population health.

For healthcare organisations to take full advantage of their different data sources, the adoption of interoperability standards such as FIHR HL7 will need to be prioritised.

Barriers to Adoption

There are inevitably barriers to the adoption of radical new methods. One of the biggest is mindset – the tendency to stick to the old legacy systems. The pandemic has shone a light on the shortcomings of the healthcare industry and highlighted the need for digital transformation. Digital health records make it easier for healthcare organisations to get a holistic view of the population’s health, and foster a welcome collaboration with the life science industry to develop new products and treatments.

There is also the question of adopting global industry standards. Compliance with standards will fuel interoperability between different systems, facilitating access, exchange, integration and consumption of health data.

Another important consideration with electronic health records is data security and privacy. A robust data governance system needs to be put in place to protect the privacy of patients’ sensitive health data.

Balancing innovation with security

Due to the increasing number of cybersecurity attacks on healthcare systems, there will be more scrutiny regarding health data sharing, consent, and monetisation. It is predicted that governmental bodies will double down on regulations following major breaches in the next couple of years.

Because healthcare providers acknowledge their responsibility to protect patients’ data and their privacy, they tend to stick to keeping their data in silos and in different systems that can be more easily restricted or protected. This is a big issue when moving towards data sharing.

From the patient’s perspective, there is the question of consent. A patient is comfortable with sharing their health data with the doctor, but if this data needs to be shared more widely, healthcare organisations need to be transparent about its potential other uses.

However, health data will become more user-centric – meaning that this sensitive data is owned by the patients themselves, giving them leverage over their personal health information to advocate for, secure and realise better personalised care.

Unfortunately, the value of such information is so huge that it is bound to attract the attention of malicious actors. It is therefore critically important to put protective measures in place.

IDC has predicted that as governments tighten regulations on the use of healthcare data, providers will need to invest in data-driven governance, operations, and organizational infrastructure. This basically means a complete transformation of the way the healthcare industry operates. The new scalable, high performance infrastructure requires new approaches to handling data corruption and ransomware attacks, with a focus on access management and data security.

Moving Forward – Technology at the cutting edge

To achieve the predicted improvements in healthcare practices over the next few years, the industry will need to pioneer numerous advances in technology. 

Enhanced cloud technologies and super-reliable broadband connectivity will be essential to support the coming raft of innovative applications, and open APIs will be needed to extend flexibility to eco-system partners.

Deep Learning, Machine Learning, and Neurolinguistic Programming will be applied to unlock the value of clinical data. By 2027, Ambient Interfaces powered by intelligent speech recognition, sensors and gesture-based controls could become commonplace among healthcare professionals and even some households.

The healthcare industry is in the midst of a continuing process of transformation. Advances in technology, notably on secure and well governed data platforms, and the development of a data-driven culture will drive dramatic improvements in patient experience and, more importantly, health outcomes.

Previous articleBerjaya Asset Appoints Dato Hisham Othman As CEO
Next articleAmFirst Reit To Dispose Menara AmFirst At A Loss For RM62 Million


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here