Healthcare organizations suffer from what I refer to as “DRIP,” which means they are Data Rich and Information Poor. Healthcare systems have been collecting data for a couple of decades now, but most of that data is not necessarily clinical data. In the past seven to 10 years, there has been an uptick in the collection of discrete clinical data, and that has ramped even more in the last five years.

Along with this clinical data, and with the advent of new, mobile technologies that make data collection easier, we now see more unstructured data – video, audio, dictation – being included in medical records. This all plays into the DR part of DRIP – lots and lots of data is being collected and stored, but many healthcare organizations don’t quite know what to do with it.

On the other side, some organizations are realizing the need to bring in data scientists, which is a position that most hospitals, despite a wealth of research scientists, have never had before. These are not report writers who are given a specific question, research it, and then create a report from the data provided; a data scientist can look at raw data and identify trends without necessarily having the question in front of them. This is the promise of big data in the healthcare space.

The capture and storage of data in the healthcare environment has grown exponentially as medical facilities have moved more clinical content into their electronic medical records (EMRs)/electronic health records (EHRs), and that data is, in many cases, an organization’s most valuable asset. What can an organization do to ensure they have the best data storage solutions available in the event they want to engage with a data scientist to help them transform this ‘data’ into ‘information’, and eventually into ‘knowledge’? I’d like to share a few tips with healthcare organizations that are trying to create a solid data storage solution that is scalable for future needs:

Stay away from silos – data management and data storage needs to be treated as a true enterprise projects. To live within the new cost constraints we are dealing with as an industry, and to gain efficiencies in our operations, we all need to move away from silos. Deploying a strategy that is one data management platform that can serve all of your needs instead of a silo may be more expensive up-front, but the value of having one solution, one pane of glass to manage your data, one support contract, one skill-set for your staff, and one set of updates cannot be underestimated.

Make sure data can grow – keep Moore’s Law, which states that the overall processing power for computers will double every two years, in mind when purchasing an enterprise solution for data storage and management. Your data will grow. Period. When you choose a vendor, consider that vendor’s longevity and history in the data solutions marketplace first. Then work with that experienced vendor to create a solution that can be upgraded without any downtime, that doesn’t cost you extra whenever you upgrade it, and that allows you to add storage as you need it over time. If nothing else, remember: Don’t get yourself into a situation where you require a “forklift” upgrade every three years. Also, be aware that the design effort must be collaborative with your selected vendor.  Any vendor that provides you with a solution without significant due diligence is not truly collaborating with you.

Use storage efficiencies to improve your capabilities – managing storage is a full-time job, and most organizations of significant size have a few people dedicated to that alone. Find a vendor to work with your team to develop a data storage solution specifically for the enterprise that offers bundled storage efficiencies that continue to become stronger and more capable. De-duplication should be a part of that bundle of efficiencies. It can sometimes offer storage efficiencies of 50 percent or more with certain workflows. Data compression can add even more efficiency without impacting performance, if it is implemented properly. If you work with your vendor to utilize these types of storage efficiencies and have them built into your data management solution, you won’t have to buy excessive amounts of storage today to meet your requirements of tomorrow.

Back-up and protect your data – in the healthcare industry, many organizations still back up data every night at midnight, but today’s offerings of data protection, back-up and restoration, are much more effective and efficient. Newer capabilities offer recovery to the past minute, five minutes or 10 minutes, which offers a new level of thinking and possibility.

Once an organization has begun to look at data storage as an enterprise-wide solution and finds an experienced vendor that offers efficiencies and scalable products that are recoverable and accessible back to the last minute, it can then realize the true value of all of the data it collects. Imagine the possibilities of an organization that moves from suffering from DRIP syndrome to an organization that is Data Rich, Information Rich, and Knowledge Rich. The organization can offer better care for patients, uncover new and different scientific and medical discoveries, and hold onto proprietary research findings.

The possibilities are bound only by the imagination.