Converting raw data
into business intelligence

Healthcare organizations that consolidate and integrate disparate data sources can unlock valuable insights for business users.

The main focus of the program is to create a shared stewardship of the data across the organization. Better data is everyone’s job.

—Terri Mikol, director of Data Governance at UPMC

Global health care provider and insurer UPMC saw tremendous opportunity in unlocking the business potential of nearly five petabytes of information. This included clinical, financial, administrative, and genomic data from more than 20 hospitals and 400 clinical locations. UPMC’s goal is to deliver useful enterprise analytics relying on consolidated data from its hundreds of disparate sources.

The solution is an ambitious five-year initiative spearheaded by UPMC Director of Data Governance Terri Mikol. The initiative is helping the organization convert its massive data store into valuable business intelligence(BI).

In order to derive value from data, Mikol stresses the following:

  • Take inventory. Currently, UPMC is building an official inventory, or business glossary, of data. This data resides in the estimated 1,200 applications that will be loaded into the enterprise data warehouse. Data integration, MDM, and complex event-processing capabilities will be used to load the data.
    “Our application inventory tells us exactly where all of our data currently resides,” says Mikol. “Without knowing what and where this data is, it’s impossible to even begin to build an enterprise data plan.”
    Once the inventory is complete, Mikol says, UPMC will vet every one of these data sources. They will consider the sources’ potential to add value to enterprise analytics.
  • Ensure data integrity. Making applications as transparent as possible is another step toward business intelligence. For this reason, UPMC is leveraging data profiling tools and reviewing results with a small data governance leadership team. The goal is to identify data integrity issues and ensure only trusted data populates its enterprise analytics system. Establishing business rules around these results can help UPMC decide if it should load certain data sets into a warehouse.
  • Formalize roles. Because technology alone cannot unleash the potential of vast amounts of data, UPMC established its own Data Governance Program. This team has been assigned specific decision rights and accountabilities related to various groups of data, application, and analytics solutions. Importantly, Mikol points out that these 200 people have always been doing data governance; they just weren’t recognized for it before. By formalizing this role, data is recognized as an asset.
    “The main focus of the program is to create a shared stewardship of the data across the organization,” says Mikol. “Better data is everyone’s job.
  • Create an Analytics Competency Center. Educating employees is essential to developing a powerful analytics platform. An Analytics Competency Center is a smart way to enhance employees’ understanding and use of analytics while encouraging greater collaboration.

And, it’s precisely this in-depth training that is helping UPMC migrate from static reports toward an interactive environment. The reports are designed to answer predefined questions. The interactive environment enables employees to use the data to reveal deeper business insights. Working in tandem with nearby Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC developed an analytics curriculum that project resources are completing. The formation of a program like this is something UPMC encourages other organizations to consider.

Just two years into its data governance initiative, UPMC is already reaping real value from its approach to BI. For example, UPMC is getting closer to determining the true cost of surgeries, such as orthopedic procedures. UPMC is doing so by consolidating and integrating disparate data sources from hospital-based services, physicians’ offices, and local clinics.

Mikol says it won’t be long before UPMC is conducting gaps in care analyses and referral pattern studies. These feats, she says, will enable the global health enterprise to “make better strategic decisions” for years to come.


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