Navigating the Complexities: Eight Data Integration and Management Challenges in Middle Eastern Healthcare Organizations

Team Innovaccer
Wed 8 Nov 2023
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Healthcare organizations encounter numerous hurdles while endeavoring to revamp their structures and maintain a competitive edge, particularly in terms of healthcare data management in the Middle East. This includes but is not limited to managing patient well-being, adapting to evolving regulations, ensuring interoperability, and providing comprehensive, patient-focused care. Achieving these requires the integration of vast volumes of data from various sources, both within and beyond the healthcare organization. These sources encompass electronic health records, insurance claims systems, pharmaceutical data, laboratory results, medical devices, customer relationship management systems, consumer-generated data, social determinants of health, and industry-specific information, each with its distinct data attributes. The absence of robust data integration and management capabilities hampers the efficiency and return on investment of healthcare services providers' health information technology initiatives, limiting opportunities for innovation and accelerated digital transformation.

The challenge of data integration and management in healthcare becomes apparent when considering its potential to support advanced data strategies. This challenge is particularly notable in the intricate nature of healthcare data integration within the Middle East. Let's take the hypothetical patient, Syeda, as an example to illustrate this complexity. Syeda visits her physician and pharmacy as needed, but her address may change temporarily or permanently. In addition, she may encounter emergencies that require a hospital visit or find herself in the emergency department for a non-emergent condition. While on a business trip, she might need to consult a different pharmacy. Her physician may refer her to a laboratory that transmits test results back to the physician. The physician may further refer her to a specialist, continuing this chain of events. Furthermore, every time Syeda seeks healthcare, various groups such as insurance companies and the government are involved, generating substantial amounts of data. It's important to note that Syeda is just one individual among many who utilize healthcare services in the Middle East.

Collecting and aggregating healthcare data can pose challenges due to its diverse sources. The data originates from various sources, making it challenging to ensure accuracy and relevance. This is particularly crucial in the current healthcare landscape, which emphasizes the delivery of high-quality care and long-term value.

Here are eight significant challenges that healthcare companies face in data collection, along with potential solutions.

Data Silos

Traditional healthcare technologies frequently compartmentalize data to meet departmental requirements within different organizations along the care continuum. This fragmentation creates the need to aggregate and utilize data effectively. Storing medical data in isolated and unconnected systems presents challenges for healthcare providers in sharing information. This leads to problems such as redundant data entry, duplication, and inconsistencies. Siloed data obstructs patient-centered care, imposes administrative burdens, and results in increased costs. Additionally, care teams encounter difficulties when working with data from multiple, disconnected electronic health record (EHR) systems, exacerbating the complexity of data integration and management.

Maintaining Adequate In-House IT Staff to Prevent Burnout

The shortage of experts in data science, integration, and skilled IT staff presents a growing challenge in the healthcare industry. The effective integration and management of data in healthcare require individuals who possess a strong understanding of IT and healthcare standards, as well as the leadership skills necessary for this complex and critical undertaking. However, finding and hiring talent capable of successfully executing similar projects across diverse business scenarios, while also meeting time and budget constraints, remains a difficult task for decision-makers. Moreover, CIOs often find themselves juggling multiple IT systems, applications, and vendors, adding further complexity to their responsibilities. These factors can strain IT teams that are already managing crucial organizational needs, including supporting clinicians and ensuring seamless operational functions.

Stringent Data Privacy, Sharing, and Security Laws

Senior healthcare executives in the Middle East are facing increasing pressure to strengthen data privacy and security practices, primarily due to the vast amount of sensitive personal data, including medical records, held by healthcare providers. The government has implemented strict regulations to protect patient privacy and establish standards for the security of medical information. Compliance with these regulations requires the implementation of robust protective measures, transparent data practices, and adherence to privacy policies to maintain trust, protect privacy, and avoid significant penalties. Balancing the need for security with the requirement for data sharing can be a challenging task, as it entails the use of reliable and compliant IT systems, which can be costly and carry inherent risks when developing or upgrading.

Manual Processes

Senior healthcare executives in the United States strive to accomplish more than just data integration – they seek actionable insights for improved decision-making, enhanced operational efficiency, and increased process transparency. This objective entails the standardization and normalization of data, continuous monitoring and improvement of data quality, and the harmonization of data into a centralized data warehouse. However, progress is impeded by the persistence of manual processes. Many healthcare providers, particularly smaller organizations, still depend on manual data entry and rely on nightly batch jobs to replicate data, resulting in considerable delays and preventing real-time visibility into patient care journeys.

Managing the Growing Volume of Data

Senior healthcare executives are faced with the challenge of keeping up with the ever-increasing volume of data in the industry. Each year, a single patient generates approximately 80 megabytes of data from imaging and electronic medical records. This data is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 36% by 2025. Additionally, the popularity of wearable devices has resulted in a significant increase in user-generated data, reaching 335 petabytes per month globally in 2020. Effectively managing and integrating this data, which often varies in quality, poses a complex task.

Addressing the Lack of Standardized Data Format

Senior healthcare executives encounter a significant challenge when it comes to integrating data that conforms to various standards. This complexity is further compounded by the use of proprietary and custom data formats by healthcare technology vendors or within the organization's IT team, hindering the standardization required for seamless integration and optimal support of data aggregation efforts aimed at promoting interoperability.

Effective Data Handling and Governance

Senior healthcare executives must address the potential for information gaps and unclear data ownership resulting from different individuals handling data processing and utilization. When organizations opt for internal integration efforts, establishing a clear understanding of data users, utilization locations, required data transformations, and ownership is crucial. An all-encompassing approach to data management is critical for preventing data inconsistencies, ensuring data quality, and effectively obtaining insights. This underscores the significance of having a structured strategy for data integration and management.

Adopting a Comprehensive Approach to Data Aggregation

Senior healthcare executives must recognize the intricate nature of healthcare business models and the complex applications and clinical systems that drive them. Integrating these systems successfully is crucial to unlocking the full potential of advanced analytics, providing actionable insights that can enhance clinical, financial, operational, and experiential outcomes.

Addressing the needs of senior healthcare executives, successful integration involves fulfilling several crucial requirements. This includes bridging data silos, adhering to applicable formats and standards, ensuring compliance with regulations and security measures, and implementing automated data integration processes. Achieving these milestones requires a combination of skilled personnel, technology, tools, and streamlined processes.

Senior healthcare executives frequently encounter the dilemma of deciding whether to build or buy the necessary technology for efficient data integration. The "build" approach entails hiring data and healthcare experts, incurring potential costs. On the other hand, the "buy" option simplifies the process and saves both time and resources. Regardless of whether organizations possess in-house resources or decide to utilize third-party solutions, it is crucial to connect data silos, standardize data, ensure compliance, and automate data integration and management to facilitate accurate and timely integration.

Innovaccer is at the forefront of driving healthcare systems beyond basic interoperability to achieve expansive data readiness. Their highly acclaimed data platform accelerates innovation and digital transformation in the healthcare industry. Innovaccer's platform simplifies data integration and management, often reducing the integration process from months or years to mere weeks. It resolves complex data challenges and drives improved business outcomes. This platform streamlines interoperability between various healthcare IT systems, unifies and cleanses data from multiple sources, prepares data for diverse applications, and ensures data standardization across all relevant systems and care settings.


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