Big Data in a Big World
As we approach the end of 2012, news headlines have us focused on many things: the impact of the U.S. presidential election, political unrest in numerous countries, development of new governments and a man free-falling to earth from space. In the midst of all this, you may not have noticed that we have entered into the age of Big Data.
Big Data is the concept that there is now so much data available that it creates difficulty in processing and analyzing it. One would think that having more data would be better for performing advanced analyses to obtain deeper meaning from vast terabytes of data in “the cloud” to support better decision-making and learning. More is better, right?
While this is true to some degree, there are challenges with just how much data is being captured now, and healthcare and emergency departments are no exception. Consider that the federal incentives for doctors’ offices and hospitals to establish electronic record systems persuaded many to finally migrate over from the ancient pen and paper methodology. The Meaningful Use certification has further stimulated software vendors to provide ever more robust data capture, and hospitals and physicians alike have already begun to embrace this. All the while, the back room computers and servers continue to process and store more and more data points.
So now what? Well, we need to find a way to navigate Big Data.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have developed an extensive series of quality measures applicable to hospitals, and its data reporting requirements have continued to grow correspondingly larger in scope and depth. The Emergency Department data set that was introduced last year contains a variety of measures, such as median arrival to provider time, median arrival to departure time, median decision to admit to departure time, and walkout percentages. And other measures are slated to be released in upcoming years.
While CMS is in a “collection phase” right now, the next step will be to provide analysis of the measures from U.S. hospitals to identify benchmark performance levels. These will help hospitals analyze how they stack up against competitors, as well as how to identify opportunities to improve upon these measures. But CMS won’t be stopping there. In the next two years, we can expect to see incentives and penalties attached to hospitals’ Medicare payments based on performance levels on these measures. The goal is to create an incentive for hospitals and providers to improve performance and further enhance both efficiency and the quality of care. Big Data is only getting bigger. And, CMS, by defining key healthcare metrics, will provide important guidance for hospitals and providers on areas to focus on to make Big Data more manageable.
Eric Bachenheimer, MBA, MHSA, FACHE joined Emergency Medical Associates in 2004 and is the Director of Client Solutions for the ED Solutions team which advises and assists clients with achieving operational efficiencies, process redesign, enhancing patient satisfaction, and ensuring regulatory compliance. He has more than 10 years of experience in the emergency department industry. He holds a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in business administration from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a certified emergency medical technician and has worked in EMS for nearly 15 years. He is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, and serves on the editorial advisory board of ED Overcrowding Solutions. Bachenheimer also is an active member of the American Association of Healthcare Consultants and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.