Three stages, big-data and not a lot of time -- that's the dilemma facing healthcare organizations across the country as they work feverishly to meet the new health IT demands legislated by the HITECH Act and related Meaningful Use goals.
So, how do you get there, and what are the critical success factors?
To date, much attention has been paid to establishing the network infrastructure to support Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Health Information Exchanges (HIE), but network deployment to disperse healthcare facilities and data centers is just the beginning (a.k.a. Meaningful Use Stage One).
Ensuring these networks offer a platform for effective traffic management and data collection is the focus of the all-important Meaningful Use Stage Two. And Meaningful Use Stage Three enables advancements in clinical decision-making, patient control and, ultimately, measurement of health outcomes.
Meeting Stage 3 goals will require sophisticated analysis of both structured and unstructured data sets from widely varied data sources, including providers, payers, patients, governments, labs, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacies. This scale of data collection and analytics is unprecedented for healthcare organizations and remains largely out of reach.
A recent InformationWeek study shows only 15 percent of healthcare organizations have implemented big-data analytics initiatives. Unfortunately, this number is woefully low and does not bode well for healthcare organizations to achieve Meaningful Use objectives.
At its current pace, the healthcare industry is lagging behind, and the majority of healthcare organizations do not yet have the right infrastructure and expertise in place to support the necessary applications and big-data analysis required under the HITECH Act.
Although such sophisticated requirements may be daunting to architect and deploy, the technology and know-how is available. Understanding the network requirements and milestones to meet these goals will help healthcare organizations to avoid pitfalls and hasten progress.
Primary considerations include:
- First, big-data demands for healthcare require a platform that enables horizontal scaling and parallel processing across structured and unstructured data, where data can be continuously collected and ingested from widely diverse sources.
- Second, the supporting network must offer multiple 10 Gbit/s of interconnection to remote datacenters to enable horizontal scaling and business continuity, to the Internet to enable data collection and interaction with patient devices and remote workers, and to workforce and ecosystem partner locations to enable access and data ingest from distributed systems.
- Third, the network infrastructure must be secure from network intrusion and denial of service attacks, across public and private networks within physical datacenters that meet Tier 4 requirements.
Each of these initiatives is within reach. In the near term, healthcare organizations should act swiftly to increase the industry focus on this issue or risk having inadequate infrastructure in the long run, undermining overall efforts to create unprecedented advances in healthcare and achieve the requirements of the HITECH Act.— Karl Strohmeyer, Group VP, Enterprise Sales, Level 3 Communications