June 12, 2018

Understanding Healthcare Data Warehouses

Like most people, each of the words within the phrase “Healthcare Data Warehouse” makes sense, and even put together, there is some semblance of meaning, but this isn’t enough. The healthcare industry is playing a game of technological-catch-up when it comes to data solutions and healthcare data systems that store, manage and report trends from within. Far gone are the days where patient health information was kept in a single office and on hard copy only. Mandates have set the standards that all medical records are to be digital and to be more readily available. This has created both a great opportunity for better care, but also a dilemma with how to store and handle so much data.

It’s hard to imagine how much data is being produced every day. Most experts agree that we are all helping to create somewhere around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, whether it be specifically related to healthcare, posts on Facebook or banking documents generated. All of this adds up quickly and is growing at an exponential rate each year. If you think about all the data that is produced for healthcare patients, it isn’t hard to see where data storage might be an issue. Between physicians’ notes, imaging results, financial information, and medications, there isn’t much wonder how bytes of data add up quickly.

Healthcare data isn’t just about keeping a record of a patient, but there is so much more information that can be netted, just like in any other industry that utilizes its data to find trends, patterns, and inefficiencies. The importance of having a healthcare data warehouse is that it turns the data that is already being gathered into the insight of how the organization is functioning. The data warehouse isn’t just a place where data is stored, but it allows healthcare facilities to see where time, monies and energies are being spent. This provides a vivid picture, without biases, as to form, purpose and operation in every aspect of a business.

What separates a healthcare data warehouse from another industry is the fact that there is so many more requirements, both internally and externally, placed on the healthcare community. Manufacturing vehicles isn’t a simple process and there are many regulations that must be adhered to, but healthcare is working with physicians and other experts, financial and accounting personnel, insurance and government reimbursement guidelines, as well as patients and their families. There are levels of expectations, especially transparency in the way care is provided, thus the data system that is relied upon cannot fall short on the many tasks that must be handled.


Different Branches of Data Warehouses Have Different Foci

This is another big problem when it comes to healthcare data reporting. Consider, for example, a broken leg. An emergency room report may focus on whether bleeding was involved and how much swelling the break caused because those things determine how urgent the response needs to be. The treating doctor who comes next will likely focus on the details of the break itself.


All of this information will also need to be transmitted to the relevant insurance companies. It turns out that these companies are usually the only parts of the healthcare system with true standardization. They use codes that are each mapped to specific things. Alas, this also means that now, there’s yet another layer of difference in the records to deal with when attempting to analyze healthcare data.

Stores Data

Due to the many different pieces of information that are stored, a healthcare data warehouse is set up with parameters that take into consideration the different departments that must access the information as well as protecting the privacy of the patient. It used to be that as data systems were being created that each department had their own silo of information, and these silos didn’t talk to one another. If for some reason the administration needed to see a health record, they had to enter into the digital health records, but they couldn’t correlate or compare with information located in their own siloed storage. This has seen a complete overhaul, without losing the integrity of or for the data.

Meeting Regulations

All healthcare facilities must meet certain governmental standards, but these standards are vast and include local, county, state and national standards, as well as reporting to each of these entities. Creating the reports necessary for informing all governmental agencies of mandates and being up to date on all new regulations isn’t something left to data software not designed for healthcare.

Privacy and Governance

There have been unfortunate reports in the news of hospitals and other facilities that have been hacked into, and patient’s information stolen and used nefariously. Everyone is vulnerable if a healthcare organization does not protect these records; just about all of our most vital information is stored in these data warehouses. Because of these data breaches, care institutions have beefed up security and are doing more to protect what they are in charge of. But it goes further than this because patients have a level of expectation when it comes to having their information recorded correctly, and not being duplicated or misdirected. Accuracy is just as important as governance and should be at the forefront of the workings of the healthcare data warehouse system.


As stated before, communication between departments is vital to more efficient and accurate care. However, communication between doctor and patient or financial department and patient is also crucial because misunderstanding leads to dissatisfaction and misperception for care. Many healthcare facilities and doctors’ groups have turned to patient portals that allow individuals to check on results, email directly to their doctor, and order prescription refills without ever having to leave their home. This also frees up doctors and their staff to tend to more urgent cases. Being able to more precisely communicate permits a more patient-centric atmosphere, and utilizes the data being stored to be used more openly and effectively.

There are so many people dependent upon the data that is stored within a healthcare organization. Even if the industry is playing a bit of a catch-up game in implementing strategies like the data warehouse system, it will work to benefit each of us, because, at some point, we are all a patient in the hands of a professional. As time goes on, the ability to provide better care will increase and become more efficient. We are all playing a part in this as we add information to this huge industry and they discover more about the possibilities of healthcare.