In Search of the Healthcare Industry Lighthouse

Posted by Ted DellaVecchia on Sep 30, 2018 2:02:00 PM
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A lighthouse is a tower topped with a very bright light called a beacon. The beacon is most often used by sailors to help guide travels during times of turbulent times and or darkness of night. They are usually located on the coast, on islands, or in the middle of busy harbors. No matter where it is located the purpose of a lighthouse is always the same; to guide vessels safely on their way. Their beacons have served as important navigational aids for thousands of years, warning unsuspecting travelers of unseen dangers.

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Metaphorically Speaking

These are indeed turbulent times in the healthcare industry. Although we’re experiencing significant advancements fueled by unprecedented growth in private, commercial, and venture investments in new tools, drugs, and care/wellness models, we have yet to observe what I’ll refer as the new model of “healthcare enterprise reinvention”. Sure, healthcare organizations are spending big on digital offerings such as augmented decision support and analytics using machine learning and other current-day inventions. And some are reporting early value in isolated use-cases. But is that enough? Why are those scenarios destined to be compartmentalized as “point-solutions” and not extensive throughout the enterprise? One reason may be the current dominant IT architectural design is typified by the accumulation of incremental layers of data components in the enterprise tech stack. As new innovations evolve they are added to the stack, eventually yielding a hairball data infrastructure. Does the resulting burden of technology debt such as managing numerous databases, warehouses, clouds, platforms, applications, data lakes, ERPs, EHR’s, CRM’s, etc. guide us to safe harbor? Defined as: one where IT enables agile and profitable business pivots, transformation of care models, and/ or ecosystem collaborations that focus on the needs of a single consumer? I submit that it does not.

We need a new direction, path, and experienced guidance to get there. Much like the lighthouse, we need an influential healthcare IT organization to take a systems-thinking approach (see Peter Senge’s “Fifth Discipline”) to illuminate the beacon that others may follow to “right the ship”. The healthcare industry is in search of the lighthouse to eliminate this nonsense and provide agile and effective navigation to a new destination of information management and simplified/modernized architectures for healthy IT functions. It’s a matter of implementing a comprehensive information management program rich in enterprise architecture, contextual data integration, and semantic relationships between and amongst data.

Digitization versus Digital Capabilities

It has become increasingly clear that digitization is a cornerstone of modern reinvention for any business model, let alone one designed to operate and thrive in an information intensive industry such as healthcare. I’ve even gone so far as to suggest that indeed, healthcare has become a data problem. And it’s not going to get any easier as the volume, velocity, and sources of data are growing exponentially. Take for example, the onset of the Electronic Health Record which has had a positive impact on clinical/patient information for medical practitioners. A great movement, jumpstarted by the positive intentions of Federal Legislation. However as it turns out like so many regulatory interventions, has yielded unintended consequences outweighing the positive and exacerbated the overly complex healthcare data landscape. Software vendors seeking to gain from regulations and mandates rushed to market with poorly architected, proprietary and arcane software tools that are too expensive in terms of total-cost-of ownership and hold hostage critical data elements. Digitization of paper health records? Sure thing. Digital capabilities that extend innovations for improved cost, quality, experience of care? I think not.

The complex challenges faced by today’s healthcare organizations are compounded by massive volumes of data emanating from a myriad of structured and unstructured sources. Enterprises must harmonize data elements from disparate sources such as databases, warehouses, data-lakes, medical devices, transaction applications, and even spreadsheets to adequately feed and augment analytic tools intended to generate actionable insights. Without the right digital capabilities enabled by the right enterprise interoperability tools, a definitive path to positive change for healthcare organizations is simply not attainable.

Architecting Interoperability

The role of the healthcare IT division is finally evolving and benefitting from a new crop of forward-thinking CIOs who not only reinvent by methodically re-architecting IT technology stacks but also inspire full-spectrum business solutions in support of strategic objectives as set forth by the c-suite/BoD. Lessons learned from other industries that have traditionally pioneered modern approaches to digitally-enabled business models are being blended with creative architectures tuned for the complex idiosyncrasies inherent in healthcare data and associated business apparatus. These IT leaders are creating agile platforms that not only attack today’s challenges head-on but simultaneously position the enterprise to transcend ever-evolving industry dynamics. They’re making pivotal investments in reducing tech-debt and simplifying the architectural stack with a focus on generating durable data management capabilities to enable information and knowledge interoperability.

In essence, these architects of enterprise innovation are guiding the way by accelerating the evolution to a reinvented healthcare operating model. Wrapping legacy infrastructure with data fabrics such as Cambridge Semantics' Anzo Knowledge Graph that automate mundane IT tasks, modernize and future-proof via open standards, leverage flexible data structures such as graph, and produce semantically interoperable layers of knowledge that accelerate insights from all sources of business, patient, and clinical data is the new play-book. As this transpires, IT emerges as the missing element that aligns business investments, cultural shifts, strategic objectives, and transformation-enabling capabilities.

This empirically proven direction is the genesis of the beacon via a new set of approaches for data interoperability, augmented analysis, and insights-driven health, care and wellness; Resolving today’s challenges and facilitating strategies for the future of the modern, digital healthcare enterprise.

We are grateful to be on this journey with several who have accepted the challenge of developing the Industry Lighthouse guiding those caught in the turbulence, with inspiration of digital capabilities to:

  • ✓ improve business operating efficiency & collaborative interoperability
  • ✓ support decision making and advance value-based programs
  • ✓ empower patients as loyal consumers with personal context
  • ✓ protect against cyber threats and data breaches
  • ✓ facilitate efficient remote health delivery & monitoring
  • ✓ develop and retain a first-class workforce
  • ✓ reduce clinical practitioner time-stress/fatigue

Following these examples will facilitate smooth navigation for organizations and for healthcare c-suites to confidently pursue and execute their visions for the future of healthcare.

To learn more about how Cambridge Semantics can help your organization build an Enterprise Knowledge Graph, click here

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Tags: Semantic Layer, Healthcare, Data Management, Graph

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