Data virtualization key to healthcare's next wave

Enables healthcare organizations to better address data growth, analytics and patient care
By Pamela Bartz
01:58 PM

Fewer industries have reaped the benefits of today’s digital world more than healthcare. The digital revolution has streamlined access to data allowing for more accurate and comprehensive patient care across the care continuum.

While most healthcare organizations have gained value from the digital revolution, most can’t reach ultimate integration nirvana due to data silos and disparate systems. In addition, recent mergers and acquisitions of large conglomerate healthcare networks, have resulted in duplicate systems of record that rely on proprietary code. Exacerbating the situation, joining these systems comes with strict HIPAA regulations and hurdles, as well as exorbitant price tags.

Fortunately, there is a solution that allows data to integrate without having to physically move from its original location. It’s called data virtualization and it enables hospitals and health systems to create a more agile information architecture by integrating real time data access to existing electronic health record systems and patient portals without changing or moving the original source code.

Data virtualization in healthcare: Big Data, EHR and beyond
Business intelligence and analytics are playing a major role in the push to achieve unified data access and improve patient interactions. With better insight, healthcare institutions can provide more accurate one-on-one care, create a more complete picture of population health trends, and prime themselves for Accountable Care Organization (ACO) membership.

Noted research in a TEKsystems Healthcare Services Division 2014 Survey, indicates that healthcare professionals expect business intelligence systems to be used widely across their organizations, including Finance (76 percent), Operations (75 percent), Clinical Care (71 percent) and Compliance (53 percent). With healthcare information growing, and data-intensive trends becoming more popular, it’s no wonder data integration and single-source access has become crucial in achieving more comprehensive patient care.

In light of the massive quantities of digital data being created, shared and stored on a daily basis, the task of integrating data is not one to be taken lightly. According to, the healthcare industry is experiencing explosive growth in data — from 500 petabytes in 2013 to 25,000 PBs by 2020. Furthermore, the number of ACOs has risen sharply from just a year ago.

This means there is a greater need to integrate data than ever before. In fact, as noted in the website, 46 percent of C-suite executives are using an integrated data solution to reduce silos, while the website highlights that 72.5 percent of healthcare organizations are integrating clinical and claims data to better manage population health.

The Value of Data Virtualization for Healthcare
While unprecedented data growth and adoption of business intelligence tools are two major catalysts underlying the search for improved data integration there are other benefits that can come from a more consolidated approach to data access, and data virtualization answers the call, allowing for:

  • Simplified Data Access. As healthcare organizations grow – organically and through mergers and acquisitions – data systems can become further siloed. Unified data access through data virtualization breaks down integration barriers, enabling ubiquitous access to critical patient information through a common interface.
  • Continued ROI of Existing Infrastructure. Data virtualization extends the life and ROI of existing legacy infrastructure resources because it enables real time patient data to be easily accessed regardless of the format or location. So even if it resides on the historically hard-to-access mainframe, it can be accessed to create cloud applications, mobile and Web-based services.
  • Support of EHR and Meaningful Use. With the HITECH Act of 2009 and meaningful use requirements, EHRs become a requirement to attest to Stage 1 of MU. This added burden of tying electronic data access and entry into myriad hospital systems including billing, point-of-care, pharmacy and even other healthcare provider networks, means integration of all data aspects has become paramount to next-level patient care.
  • New Payment and Reimbursement Models. The move from fee-based to performance-based reimbursement models, as well as Medicare reimbursements tied to patient satisfaction, highlights the importance of quality patient care. Data virtualization supports streamlined collection of accurate data and survey analytics, as well as real time information about patient readmissions and aftercare adherence, improving patient experience and care.
  • Data Storage and Cost Reduction. Faced with ever-growing budget constraints, healthcare entities must “do more with less,” including completing IT-intensive projects quickly and at the lowest possible cost. With an effective data integration solution, providers can actually reduce data storage and warehouse costs, and better cope with constrained IT resources.
  • Improved Care Quality. Empowering patients to proactively participate in their own care is the basis for improving health and patient satisfaction. Data access plays a key role. Data virtualization ensures real time access to patient records via portals, EHRs and mobile devices, supporting improved patient outcomes.
  • Compliance and Data Governance Support. Healthcare data breaches are on the rise. To remain HIPAA-compliant, and to protect patient information, healthcare organizations must implement measures to more effectively handle, and secure, massive amounts of digital data. Data virtualization can help by automating and streamlining many of the data entitlement measures required to achieve regulatory compliance.