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.