The Importance of a Data Library In Healthcare

The healthcare industry generates an incredible amount of data — almost a third of the entire world’s data volume — but the field is always changing. From new technologies to new health concerns, medical organizations need sophisticated data management tools to help make sense of it all. To get there, they rely on data libraries. These powerful resources, alongside technology like extract, transform and load (ETL), make it possible for healthcare professionals to adapt to changing demands and understand the vast amount of data moving through the business. They empower data-backed decision-making and immediate access to the information it requires.

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Let us take a closer look at data libraries and how they work within a healthcare system.

What Is a Data Library?

A data library, like a data warehouse or data pool, is a repository for information. In healthcare, this might look like continuity of care documents or medical coding records. This information gets stored in the data library, an immediately accessible place usable by many different applications. Since healthcare organizations often use a wide variety of tools and platforms to do their work, the data library must be capable of storing and organizing data in different formats and communicating with diverse platforms.

More data is more knowledge, and knowledge is power — power to make strong business decisions and improve care. You can use it to navigate the services you want to provide and determine how you will stand out from the rest of the industry. Actionable data is vital for various business practices, and the data library is simply a place for housing that information, regardless of its form.

A crucial part of a healthcare data library is its ability to accommodate both existing and future needs. It should be able to simplify the process of sifting through and understanding your existing data, but it should also be able to catalog this information for future needs that do not yet exist.

A data library is similar in this way to a traditional brick-and-mortar library. When the building is created, no one knows what the library will hold in 20 or 50 years. After all, many historic libraries now hold Blu-ray discs, e-books and video games — technology that was far from reality when the library was built. However, they can accommodate these new mediums just fine. Data libraries need to maintain the same flexibility. 

A data library facilitates sorting through data even for purposes that you cannot anticipate. Ideally, information is simplified to make it easier to work with. For example, storing a document in a data library might involve pulling it apart into different components. A progress report contains specific elements that you know you need, like demographic information or billing codes, but other pieces of information do not have a clear purpose yet. The data you know you need is pulled out, and the rest is stored as objects in the system. These objects may not be required right away, but you can return to them in the future if the need appears.

In our library analogy, you know that you will not understand every detail of a book unless you read it front to back. Similarly, when working with a data library, you will not know what information you have until you pull the data out and analyze it. That is where ETL comes in.

Data Libraries and ETL

Extract, transform and load is a three-step data processing technique. In the data library, information should be ready to use and access. Running ETL involves teasing apart the data to make it more useful. It pulls some aspects out of the data, but not every single word or character. Instead, it creates tags and snapshots through metadata, making it easier to perform searches and work through the information.

ETL presents you with a concise summary of the data, like a card catalog in a traditional library or the synopsis of a book. Where the data library is an entire collection of books and a piece of data is a book, the ETL is like the CliffsNotes version of a book.

The data library is an entire collection of books and the ETL is the CliffNotes

For an example of how data libraries and ETL work together, say a clinician takes progress notes for a visit with a patient with diabetes. They may use standards like Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) or the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Before their progress report is stored in the data library, it goes through an ETL process that pulls out certain pieces of information that it knows are valuable, like the patient’s name, birth date and details about their condition. The rest of the report is stored as an object.

During the visit, the patient also mentioned something that sounds unrelated — a toe fungus that they recently noticed. Since it is not usually related to diabetes, it was not included in the first “card catalog ” for the report. After some time, new research shows that toe fungus might have some connection to diabetes. Thankfully, the rest of the report is still stored in the data library, so another ETL can access it and pull out the necessary information. Researchers could better understand relevant data, and providers might identify patients who could benefit from new interventions.

Another good example is COVID-19. Before 2020, it was unanticipated, but now we can perform ETL on historic data to understand symptoms collected before we knew about it. Data collection and accessibility were key to understanding the virus’s spread, movement and other characteristics. ETL can occur repeatedly as an ongoing process that pulls information from a data library as needed.

How Happe-Xchange Supports a Strong Data Library

Happe-Xchange from Tangible Solutions handles the ETL process of bringing data into a data library. It combs through different data types and pulls out important details before storing them in your data library. It is a vital part of maximizing the value of a data library so it works as part of a fully integrated IT environment. With ETL and a data library, healthcare facilities can use patient data with many different systems and access it immediately. Stakeholders can make decisions quickly, with all of the right data in an easy-to-access location.

Learn More About ETL Solutions

Healthcare organizations rely on robust data libraries, and data libraries rely on high-quality data. If you need an ETL solution, Tangible Solutions can help. We are committed to high-quality technology solutions for those in the healthcare industry, including data processing services that empower you to improve care and make better business decisions. To learn more about Happe-Xchange and how Tangible can help you create a comprehensive healthcare application environment, please reach out to an expert today!

Learn More About ETL Solutions