Jennifer DeFrancesco: Are We Missing the Big Picture with Big Data?

Healthcare technology management (HTM) prides itself on being driven by “big data.” We have more metrics and ways at making evidence-based decisions than most within the healthcare industry.  Now that we are well into the era of big data, the struggle has been making it relevant. Sure, as HTM, we have settled nicely into our stride with using this data to prove our worth to our organization on a foundational level—how much we cost avoid as a program, uptime percentages, customer satisfaction, etc. We inundate our leadership with so many program-based metrics.

But what if we are missing the big picture? What if we aren’t getting the response we want because we are missing the “so what does it mean for patients” question? Have we built the data systems to provide us with the information pertinent to our organizations? In the same way that activity doesn’t always equate to productivity, big data doesn’t always mean that we have usable information to take action on.

In a world where we hold the keys to so much information from devices and our computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), have we truly ventured to understand what data points our organizations need? And do we, as HTM, possess the knowledge and unique perspective to show them how this could be leveraged on a system level to make decisions for patients? For instance, use-error data from our CMMS can identify critical areas where access may be compromised due to a high number of breakages.  This information can be used to project access measures, perform predictive scheduling and areas of risk where improvements could be made to create a safer environment for our patients and where additional resources, such as training or capital purchases, could make an impact. Likewise, device data from clinical information systems could be used as proactive warnings to identify outlier alerts on patients that indicate potential for a serious medical event prior to it occurring.

While there is much opportunity, there are also many barriers we need to tackle as an HTM community to accomplish this. Within our organizations, we must first identify these areas where data can be utilized and be willing to partner with the appropriate people to make it happen. Until this occurs, we cannot articulate the possibilities to our leadership effectively. Standard data definitions and terminology are one of our major hurdles in making data usable into usable information. Without a standard platform, there is little hope for sharing meaningful information across organizations. We must let people know what can be done with this data, and we must engage them to understand how it can be used. Until that time, either nobody knows or nobody cares. Imagine the power that the data HTM provides could have if it could be leveraged in care provisions, clinical decision making, and innovating processes.

Jennifer DeFrancesco is the chief biomedical engineer for the Indianapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the lead biomedical engineer for the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 10, which supports 11 hospitals in the Midwest. She is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council and is the winner of AAMI’s 2016 Young Professional Award.

One thought on “Jennifer DeFrancesco: Are We Missing the Big Picture with Big Data?

  1. I say, yes. Not just big data, but data and data systems in all phases of healthcare, especially at the point of care. As electrical safety was to yesterday’s biomeds and CEs, “CE/IT/data safety” will be to today and tomorrow’s biomeds and CEs. In the care environment, HIS EMR AMR (and all the other digital and data distractions that have caregivers taking care of mice and keyboards along with patients) are becoming a new kind of safety issue. So many patients have complex medical issues and the information and technology systems being used demand more and more attention, clicks and points. Task loading and demanding clinical decision making are a difficult balance. Every technology service call is a chance to reduce a caregivers nonclinical task load. Every service call we take when technologies become “broken” creates a distraction.Big or small, any tech distraction can and should be minimized so the matrix of variables a caregiver is dealing with is not stretched or broken. Regardless of how a biomed or CE sees any given IT/data technology problem in our scale, it must be taken care of in the context of the point of care so that the demon Murphy will not knock down our caregiver’s house of cards. We not longer fix technology; we fix people with technology problems.
    J Scot Mackeil CBET Quincy Ma.

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