Business Intelligence Helps Solve the Healthcare Security Problem

Business Intelligence Helps Solve the Healthcare Security ProblemBusiness intelligence and data analysis often suffer from a nebulous image. Somehow, somebody takes some data out there somewhere and does something with it. The view is far too abstract and may help explain why there isn’t greater use of BI in businesses.

Part of the problem lies with technical staff, who likely discuss the benefits and applications in a general way. But line-of-business executives don’t necessarily have the experience to project general capabilities into a specific scenario they can use. So offering specifics, like case studies, is important.

An example is the potential use of BI and analytics in the healthcare industry to reduce security threats. There has been a run of high-profile breaches at major healthcare providers, including Anthem, Community Health Systems, and UCLA. But that is just the tip of the exploit iceberg.

Since October 2009, there have been 1,339 security breaches affecting at least 500 individuals, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, fines have been rare, coming only 22 times in that period.

To put it bluntly, there is little likelihood that financial pressure would make the typical healthcare executive more sensitive to security issues because the chance of official attention is so low. That is the first place BI could investigate. By looking at patterns of treatments, patient activity, revenue, staffing, and other indicators, a healthcare company could see more directly how a breach might have affected business.

When it comes to actually managing security, BI can play an active and effective role. As Ron Mehring, senior director and chief information security officer for 25-hospital system Texas Health Resources, told Healthcare IT News, “The onset of these large-scale breaches is changing how we prioritize our security efforts within the health system.”

Previously, the provider focused on regulations and compliance and then thought generally about how they might respond to a large-scale breach. But the volume of such breaches has caused them to rethink their approach.

What has come to the fore at the organization is an attempt to use data in advance to understand how to better configure appliances and controls rather than assume that technology alone would deter attacks.

By closely monitoring and analyzing data, Texas Health can build profiles of attacks, look for vulnerabilities, spot patterns that show someone trying to obtain and remove copies of sensitive data, and adjust processes and activities to keep breaches from happening in the first place, rather than reacting to them after the fact.

Finding examples like these, or developing potential examples from their own companies, can provide a way for BI professionals to communicate the value and potential applications of data analysis to others. The result can be a better use of their talents and greater appreciation of the value they bring.

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