It’s taken a shockingly long time for the health care industry to start recognizing the value of healthcare data solutions and big data, but the ball is finally rolling. Clinics and hospitals are finally completing the process of converting to an all-digital approach, but there are still a lot of technical problems to be solved. The biggest may be the question of how to store all that vital healthcare data in a way that can be useable, especially when working to improve quality in the healthcare industry. According to Forbes, the question of how to organizing and manage terabytes of data is confounding many organizations.
Three Approaches to the Healthcare Data Warehouse
There are three basic data warehouse designs competing in the healthcare data solutions marketplace right now: the enterprise data model approach, the independent data mart approach, and the Late Binding approach. Of those three, the Late Binding approach is beginning to emerge as the clear favorite.
The enterprise data model approach is a top-down design. Engineers try to decide what the database needs to collect and what it will be used for and then build a system architecture to support those particular objectives. This creates several big problems, however. First, it’s very difficult to predict what data will be valuable in what ways in a rapidly changing field like health care. Advances in technologies and changes in treatment options can render permanent features of the warehouse useless or even damaging. Second, it’s tremendously expensive and time-consuming on the front end.
The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.William Osler
The second approach, using independent data marts, poses some different challenges. The data mart approach starts at the bottom and builds up, adding a new data warehouse for each new challenge or problem. This offers flexibility and agility, but it also wastes a huge amount of time and energy. In the enterprise model, all the questions can be solved by one system. In the independent data mart approach, every new data question requires a brand new warehousing solution.
The final approach, the Late Binding technique, is something of a hybrid. It takes bits and pieces from the other approaches to build a composite solution that is more flexible than the enterprise model and more comprehensive than the independent mart model. The key innovation behind the Late Binding approach is keeping incoming data stored its “raw” form, unmapped to existing rules and definitions. The raw data sits in storage until it’s needed for a particular solution. Then, it can be manipulated and transformed as needed. The technique doesn’t require predicting the future because it’s fully adaptable, but it also provides a global vision impossible through the independent data mart approach.
Advantages of Late Binding As a Data Solution in Healthcare
In practical terms, Late Binding offers users very significant advantages over the other two approaches.
First, Late Binding recognizes the peculiarities of data in the healthcare industry. In the ball bearing industry, warehousing data on revenue generated by different products in different marts is fine because, for the most part, those revenue streams aren’t related. In healthcare, the oncology department and pediatrics are much more interconnected. Late Binding allows data from both to be combined and managed as needed.
Second, Late Binding is easier on computing and technical resources. The enterprise approach builds a massive architecture and every attempt to pull from the database requires engaging with the entire system. The independent data marts approach requires building new warehouses constantly. Both require a lot of technical horsepower. Late Binding minimizes the need for these resources since it only uses resources as needed.
Finally, Late Binding offers greatly enhanced flexibility. In the changing world of healthcare administration, organizations must be ready to react rapidly to changes in healthcare policy and medical technology. The enterprise model simply isn’t adaptable enough for large organizations, while the independent data mart approach just doesn’t have the teeth to keep up with tough problems. Late Binding offers healthcare data solutions that work.