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Big Data Means Big Potential, Challenges for Nurse Execs

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   April 19, 2016

The Big Data Checklist

For all its current stumbling blocks, big data holds the potential to change healthcare delivery for the better. But for that to happen, nurse executives need to act as data visionaries and architects, Caspers says.

To support CNEs in doing this, Englebright, Caspers, and a workgroup that grew out of the University of Minnesota's annual Nursing Knowledge: Big Data Science Conference in 2014, developed the CNE Big Data Checklist.  It outlines three main areas where nurse executives should become leaders in driving the use of big data:

  1. To create a culture that thrives on data
  2. To develop big data competencies for the organization
  3. To create an operation infrastructure to support big data use

"The promise with big data is that we will quickly be able to move towards prescriptive analytics where we will be able to provide information that will give us knowledge and suggest interventions, or the capability to do something about a predicted upcoming event," Caspers says.

Using big data in this way will be a boon to population health, in that it will help inform decisions about how to manage risk and disease states across the care continuum.

"Big data will help us manage the upcoming transformation into value-based care," Caspers says.

It will also support CNEs in being more nimble when it comes to making decisions. Rather than waiting for the end of the year or end of the month to get various reports, they will have access to near real-time data.

Englelbright says that by breaking down data silos, big data will also facilitate a balanced approach to assessing organizational and nursing performance.

"I'm not over here worrying about my volumes, and I'm not over here worrying about my quality and over here worrying about my cost," Englebright says. "I'm able to think about all of these things in relation to each other and success is when they all get better… and I'm able to move forward in all of these dimensions at once."

The future of big data could be very bright, but chief nurses must get involved to ensure nurses gets the full benefit.

"The big data revolution is here," Englebright says. "We are much further along this path than we think we are and it is time for the chief nurse executive community to jump in the middle of this and to claim our part in it, to guide it and direct so we end up with the tools we need for practice and for our work."

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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