Heavy lifting of data as a precursor to successful healthcare analytics
POSTED : August 5, 2016

In 1953, a British expedition, led by John Hunt arrived in Nepal.  Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The first pair (Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans) came within 100 meters of the summit on 26 May 1953; but turned back after running into oxygen problems. As planned, their work in route finding and breaking trail and their caches of extra oxygen were of great aid to the following pair. Two days later, the expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its second climbing pair, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa climber from Darjeeling, India. They reached the summit at 11:30 am local time on 29 May 1953.

At first glance, this anecdotal story has nothing to do with your healthcare analytics.  However, if we look at an analytics endeavor in light of a climbing expedition; the similarities begin to come to light!  The success of any climb comes from two critical factors; planning and heavy lifting.  To reach a pinnacle of 29,029 feet requires a methodical and well-thought out strategy.  The ascent is made in stages, with multiple base camps being established along the way.  Sixty years ago, it took over 40 climbers and 300 Sherpas to put two men on top of Everest.

By any other name, a Sherpa is a member of an indigenous Nepal people who are well-known as being the porters for climbing expeditions.  Able to function in high altitudes, incredibly nimble in their mountaineering skills, and confident in their abilities; Sherpas can carry packs weighing as much as they do.  NPR reported a study that showed this was possible through lowered metabolism and acclimation to steep inclines, all coupled with an inherent understanding of biomechanics!

Now picture your analytics solution as a mountain; perhaps even one in the Himalayas, depending on how tall your challenge is.  Any vendor can sell you a framework to accommodate your data.  Think of it as an empty backpack, waiting to be filled with your data.  Some of these vendors can sell you sets of measures as well.  Think of this as a walking stick, to help offset the weight of your data.  But these tools ring empty if you do not have somebody to find the data, load it into the backpack, and haul it up a mountainside!  How will that person find the scattered healthcare data? How will they assure its validity and integrity?  Will they know how to pack it correctly?  Finally, will they have the strength and experience to make a successful ascent?

The success of any healthcare analytics endeavor resides within your data.  Getting that data into your framework and deriving actionable knowledge is the critical factor.  Otherwise, what should be an investment merely becomes another expense.  Seek out a vendor who is willing to be more than a climbing companion; rather, find yourself a Sherpa!  Your vendor needs to be a “heavy lifter” who can dig data out of disparate sources, who can normalize it, validate it, properly load it, and carry it into your data warehouse.  A highly experienced Sherpa knows every nuance of the mountain.  The same holds true for your analytics vendor; they need to come out of the healthcare domain, preferably having operational experience on top of IT prowess.  Finally, your Sherpa needs to be able to help you plant the flag at the summit; surfacing knowledge from your analytics that is trustworthy, representing a 360-degree view of the healthcare continuum.

The life of the Sherpa is not easy and a trusted heavy lifter is difficult to find.  However, selecting the right healthcare analytics vendor can make a vast difference.  Would your organization rather come within 100 meters of the summit or reach the healthcare knowledge pinnacle?   A Sherpa can make a world of difference!

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