Many hospitals and health networks today operate on old-fashioned systems and procedures. Although the mass adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) was a big leap forward in digitizing healthcare, there’s incredible, untapped potential for healthcare organizations to use data. If we consider the business of healthcare, hospitals are machines for creating data. Every patient chart, procedure, insurance reimbursement, doctor/patient interaction and diagnostic technology creates data. Imaging alone can create a huge amount of data—one 60-second scan can generate 10 gigabytes of information, according to a McKesson executive.

All that data can be used to transform hospital procedures, improve quality of care, and help hospitals run their organizations as efficient businesses. And beyond running a hospital more efficiently, data could save lives—imagine how analysing data could help understand high-risk patient segments across a population of millions, allowing healthcare organizations to make proactive care recommendations.

Across all industries, we’re seeing a shift toward two major trends: growing use of mobile applications and demand for self-service BI. Both of these changes could be transformative for hospitals and healthcare as a whole.

Healthcare On the Go

As mobile devices have increased in popularity amongst consumers, their use in business settings has also risen. In a busy, mobile environment such as a hospital, ER department or clinic, tablets and smartphones are a natural fit—doctors and nurses can use them to pull up charts, enter information and track data. Beyond medical staff, there are many other stakeholders in a hospital who want to see data, such as the board members responsible for ensuring the financial success and future of the hospital.

Mobile apps with access to data analytics can add tremendous value to a hospital’s workflow. Consider a hospital that rolls out an iPad-based mobile application with real-time patient and operational data. Front-line clinicians could look at their patient load for the day or triage patients from the ER into hospital beds. Administrators could use the app to look at operational data and understand which service lines are doing best—and where the hospital could expand to meet patients’ needs. The end result is an organization that’s aligned from operating room to board room, increased productivity, significant cost savings and a better patient experience.

Everyone Can Use Data

Mobile access to data dovetails with another growing trend: a self-service approach to analytics. Although data analytics used to be the domain of the IT department, non-technical users have been clamoring for information. Across industries, more and more jobs rely on data to make decisions and improvements in business. Healthcare is no exception. Are hospital-associated infections increasing in the ER? Are patients more or less satisfied with their care? Are ER wait times longer or shorter than usual this month? Data could answer all these questions. Without access to information, hospitals can’t make any meaningful improvements.

Of course, when more people want access to data and the IT department is the only source, there’s a fatal flaw: people run into a bottleneck. At a recent MicroStrategy Symposium event, a Network World reporter wrote about a panel of customers, including two healthcare organizations. In that story, both organizations note that the demand on their departments has increased. In response, they’re creating a self-service environment that allows users to pull their own reports, create dashboards and make the most of data.

By granting non-IT users the power to access and create the content they need, a self-service approach to analytics removes the bottleneck. Not everyone needs to see every piece of data, but it’s incredibly empowering to hand nurses a tablet with a patient-scheduling app and live dashboards.

Healthcare is a fast-growing field with some ambitious challenges to solve diseases, improve human health and save lives. Leaders like Joe Biden have identified data analytics as a pathway to solving some of these issues, and he isn’t the only one who believes in data-driven insights. The future is exciting for healthcare, and a mobile-first, empowered approach to BI is one way to reach for it.