Big data: in healthcare, the term can mean different things to different people. To some, it’s simply a reference to the hoards of information being produced every day in the healthcare industry. To others, however, it’s a gateway to increased financial viability for providers and a better patient experience through strategic analysis and process improvement.

There is an unprecedented amount of data – both structured and unstructured – being created by hospitals, clearinghouses, technology vendors, public health agencies, health information organizations and consumers. But capturing data is no longer good enough. The key to bringing value to this information is the ability to go beyond “big data” to extract and analyze relevant and actionable information points that drive decision-making. This is a new challenge that will require providers to invest in additional technologies. In fact, KLAS reports that 55 percent of providers plan on purchasing business intelligence solutions in the next three years to help them make sense of the data. In order to do that, providers will need real-time, Web-based access to information that can be easily structured, analyzed and shared across the enterprise.

It’s easy to get lost in the large amount of data now available at providers’ fingertips. When investing in a business intelligence solution, it’s important for hospitals to ensure the technology can not only capture and translate the information, but also pinpoint the exact pieces of data that will change provider behavior in a way that leads to improved financial, clinical and operational outcomes, and, thus, stronger overall performance. This consultative approach to analytics will help guide lead providers to potential problem areas within the organization encompassing both the financial and clinical sides of the enterprise.

When assessing quality outcomes, ensuring proper admissions is one area where targeted analytics can drive positive change. Cutting down the rate of unnecessary admissions – and, conversely, the rate of discharges from the emergency department for patients who should have been admitted – can greatly improve outcomes, leading to a more positive experience for both the provider and the patient. On the administrative side, understanding ways in which to collect the most money from patients prior to service can ensure a provider remains financially stable. And in today’s post-recession economy, increased bad debt resulting from patients with insurance coverage has become an unwelcome reality due to rising deductibles and the overall shift of financial responsibility to the patient. Addressing these issues head on through the analysis of actionable data can keep this trend from causing additional damage.

Through a consultative approach to analytics, the proper technology can provide hospital leaders with answers that will create a positive change in behavior that leads to improved outcomes and an enhanced patient experience.