To understand what business intelligence (BI) is, we should start by choosing an industry first, and and then dig into application. Gartner.com defines BI as an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.
BI isn’t a stand-alone concept or practice, especially when employed within the healthcare industry. There are three main components that when utilized alongside BI to provide the most effectual data. The first component is the data storage technology, or the enterprise data warehouse (EDW). This is a system that converts stored data, past or present, into meaningful or useful information enabling better decision making.
Once all the data is organized in a manner that can be extracted, the second component is called upon. The need to change the aggregated details into a visual format is known as data visualization and is one of the more powerful tools available. Most of us can’t look at a spreadsheet with its rows and columns of information and truly make sense of it all. However, when translated into a graph, chart or diagram, the comparisons become easy to digest and diagnose. A visual analysis allows decision makers to begin to answer questions such as:
- What happened?
- How often did it happen?
- What is the problem?
- What do I need to do to fix the problem?
Now that a picture has been created regarding what has already occurred, the third component is then put into action. Being able to drill down and apply discovery methods is where information about the future is contained. Many refer to this as business analytics, which is the predictive aspect to intelligence. When you are able to use the answers from the questions from the past to find out what the future might hold, you are moving into a realm of better business making decisions. Answering questions along the lines of:
- Why is this happening?
- What happens if we keep moving in the same direction as a company?
- What are the possible outcomes and financial benefits?
Many healthcare professionals will draw upon dashboards, which provide a high-level view of the organization. This other visual component is part of the business analytics side of the equation because it can supply answers to the any different “why” questions, and thus leads to projections in potential understanding of the business as a whole.
There is a natural progression that strengthens the course of healthcare, both within and outside the walls of a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. When you know what has happened, you can create reports. When you know what is happening right now, you can monitor and make real-time changes and decisions. When you know why something has happened, you can analyze it for better awareness. And, when you know what is possible in the future, you can predict when time, money and resources should be accurately dedicated. Business Intelligence is the process that makes it all possible.