For virtually every health care provider or relevant business, the most important word in the IT lexicon has been "data" for several years now. Back in 1996, the attempts of the government to dramatically increase the accessibility and security of data became clear through the enactment of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, and this marked the beginning of what would become a persistent effort to improve population care.

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act sought to comprehensively digitize patient data and force providers to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records in a relatively short period of time. Finally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 and upheld this year, put a new angle on the ways in which medical firms make use of their data through demands to minimize hospital re-admissions and improve preventative care.

All of this has put the onus on data management, while some of the trends that have surfaced in the IT sector more recently - specifically mobility, the Internet of Things and advanced analytics - have further pushed medical firms in a more digital direction. Data is being generated, stored, shared and analyzed through a wider variety of endpoints and a higher volume of users than ever before, and managing it properly is no easy task.

In health care, compliance and security must be the top priorities, but they cannot be the only ones. Rather, medical firms must ensure that they are building analytics strategies, maximizing the insights they pull from data and maintaining high levels of accessibility all at once. The use of secure cloud and other managed services can help to dramatically improve a health care provider's ability to at once protect and capitalize on its data to the fullest extent.

Analytics struggles
Now, with respect to intelligence solutions, these technologies combined with sound data management can help to improve compliance and security in health care, along with other improvements to operational performance. However, while the solutions are indeed gaining in popularity, many firms are struggling to truly realize the maximum value of big data.

Advisory firm KPMG recently released the results of its latest survey on the international community's use of analytics, and found that monetization of and confidence in the insights garnered are lagging. The report found that 97 percent of organizations are using big data for one purpose or more, and more than two-thirds believe that they have achieved significant reductions in risk levels by leveraging the technology.

Another positive note was that 80 percent or more of the survey group have experienced more speedy and accurate decision-making capabilities as a result of the deployments. However, KPMG found that the vast majority are not "very satisfied" with the technology thus far, 58 percent are not properly analyzing the results of analytics projects and 86 percent are lacking the talent necessary to get the job done.

"As maturity increases, we have seen a corresponding increase in the complexity of the analytics being undertaken," Anthony Coops of the firm's Australia operation affirmed. "Recurring themes are emerging, such as the increasing use of multiple data sources, breaking down silos within the organization, the growing use of more sophisticated techniques in innovative areas of the business, and an improvement in the quality and repeatability of the solutions being implemented."

With respect to the most common purposes of analytics strategies, KPMG found that 97 percent are using the solutions for risk management, 80 percent target research and development and 77 percent leverage the tools to handle financial audits. More intelligent decision-making can directly translate to stronger financial and operational performances, along with reduced risk and tighter compliance with federal statutes.

The rising tide
Health care providers are going to be more poorly positioned to oblige regulations, maintain optimal security and continuously improve performances without the help of analytics as time goes on. This is likely why so few medical firms are balking at the technology today, as a report from Markets and Markets estimated the total global spend on health care analytics to reach $5.8 billion this year.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. The analysts forecast the market for these solutions to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 26.5 percent through the next five year, hitting annual global revenues of $18.7 billion at that time. Considering how quickly every factor of health care IT management is evolving, including compliance, cybersecurity, patient care, innovation and more, it should be clear why intelligence solutions are increasingly necessary to excel.

Secure cloud, email encryption and other managed services can go a long way toward bolstering the overall performance of medical firms, especially when they are provided by a trusted vendor that has the experience necessary to get the job done.