There’s no doubt that healthcare is a data-driven field and the future of health data management was at the center of many discussions at this year’s HIMSS conference. Key points were made that healthcare technology has enabled providers and insurers to reduce costs in terms of point of entry of care, and devices are available today that make the management of clinical data easier than ever before.

Spencer Hamons, Regional Chief Information Officer at NetApp Healthcare, commented, “conversations have taken on new life as we have connected more of the clinical workforce to our critical systems. The days of accepting even a 30 minute downtime window are over, so organizations are building infrastructure in ways that allow them to perform even the most complex maintenance tasks while systems are fully available. It is the quintessential analogy of being able to change the tires on your car while driving down the freeway at 100 mph. With today’s clinicians connected in more ways than ever before, and reliant on that connectivity for the most basic of patient care, what used to be a ‘nice-to-have’ technology is now essential.” Reliable, nondisruptive access to current and complete clinical data – securely delivered to whichever platform the caregiver prefers – is a cornerstone to improving patient care.

The same goes for health insurers, who need real-time data to provide the best care and treatment plans possible for patients. When it comes to insurance data, though, challenges differ from those that providers face. Paul Smith, National Practice Leader, Healthcare Insurance at NetApp, identified latency and pockets of no data as the big rocks that stand in the payers’ path.

The real-time data insurer’s need is simply not available in many instances where it may take 30 days to process a claim. This latency reduces insurers’ ability to craft appropriate and meaningful care plans for patients in need of both acute and chronic care. As an added challenge, insurers regularly encounter the empty set – no data whatsoever. Paul explained, “There are millions of cases of asymptomatic conditions like hypertension and hyperglycemia. Undiscovered, those cases present with very costly health consequences, and patients enter the health system at the wrong point of care. These are classic cases – stroke and diabetic shock – which cannot be preemptively discovered by big data and sophisticated analytics.  Certainly, the entire industry is challenged to double down on incentives for health risk assessments to screen for cases like these.”

To address this issue, employers and insurers alike are investing in tools such as risk profiles and health assessments that incent patients to provide health information to them for research purposes. As Paul says, once insurers are able to fill these gaps – with latency and the lack of patient data – they will have surpassed the “two greatest challenges in improving patient with real-time data.”

In order to overcome some of the challenges healthcare organizations are facing in having the real-time data they need, they must make data management and storage a priority. As Spencer says, the good news is many organizations “are beginning to look at next generation data center design criteria. Traditionally, healthcare has not embraced the concepts of in-house development teams, rather electing to use off-the-shelf products to fill niche needs. As more IT and business leaders are coming to the healthcare industry from the outside, this mindset is beginning to change, and next-generation data center design points are being considered.”

Would you like to learn more about how NetApp can help manage data for your healthcare organization? You can find out more about their healthcare solutions here.