21 July 2022
In our latest blog, we introduce Robert Roemer, a Texas native and Corporate Division Manager at Blue Zinc with 'The Three-Fold Foundation of Large Data Management'. A key value to our clients, end patients and the clinics with which they work comes from wisely managing the vast volumes of data available to make better decisions faster. A graduate of both the University of West Georgia and the University of Oxford, Robert is an expert on implementing and managing large data stores.
Our world is increasingly ruled by decisions made on the back of data, and this is no bad thing – data transformed into information can empower people through knowledge and improve the decision-making process. Modern technology obviously means that we are gathering huge amounts of data like never before and it's how we use that which will demonstrate whether this is for the good or for the bad. My purpose in this article is not to go into the philosophical issues related to data, suffice to say that used well and with the owner's consent this can hugely benefit society. My particular focus at Blue Zinc is to ensure that the solutions that we offer can make a significant difference to our clients and the end patients and clinics with which they work. A key part of that value is the correct management of data.
First, it's important to acknowledge that the lifeblood of our system is data. Many thousands of clinical appointments are arranged through our systems every day, and this requires the exchange of information relating to patient's medical history, their location, their company, their insurance partner or funder, clinical notes, financial arrangements and payments, clinic locations, and the diaries of the patients and the clinicians – and this list is not exhaustive. That said I'm not perturbed by the amount of data we must deal with here – I've worked in several industries all related to large data management.
In the oil exploration industry, where I worked for many years, data was vast, crucial, and incredibly valuable, so I bring this perspective to my interpretation of what are the most important aspects of large-scale data management:
This is of course a prerequisite for any data management system– you do not want a system that is porous or loses data along the way. Ultimately the data must get to who needs it and crucially to no one else. There is probably nothing more sensitive than a person's medical history: we take our responsibilities in this field very seriously at Blue Zinc and are proud to have the ISO 27K1 certification for our systems. In short, any system has to be able to protect its data and work out who does and doesn't need access to it.
Data in its rawest form is totally meaningless and without any value at all. It's what you do with the data that then turns into something that is inherently valuable and useful. Obviously placing it in context and categorisation are vital to this process. Well managed data becomes information that makes sense to people; information can then become knowledge that can be either interpreted by people or by artificial intelligence; that knowledge feeds into better decision-making and better ways to deal with problems; and eventually better decision-making in the end is worth money because it lowers costs and increases efficiency and revenues. Therefore, turning the data into something valuable is a most important task.
No matter what innovative technology has come to the fore in recent years, today is about the user experience. The interface with which people interact with the technology is the decider as to whether they can extract the value that we talked about above. Think about Amazon – it's not just that you can go in search for any item in the world and get it delivered the next day: it's also that the interface shows easily what's available and how and when it can be delivered to you. Or look at Twitter – it's popular not only because it posts a vast array of opinions from just about everybody on the planet, but also because it delivers that in a useful and accessible way. Any user interface of any worth must be intuitive – whether it's an investor using a Bloomberg terminal, or an oil company using a mapping utility to decide where to invest in exploration, it must be easy to use. The engine driving these tools becomes transparent.
When these issues are addressed correctly, the result is ‘knowledge management and it is a pleasure to watch. Some of the best are in the unlikeliest places – for me, the kings of data management and interpretation are the companies behind large theme parks. Combining video feed, turnstile throughput, ride queues, and restaurant order information they can do wonders. If you've ever been to one, you might wonder why a park employee dressed as one of the characters that your children love magically appears to sign autographs while you're all looking bored in a large queue. How do your children become part of a spontaneous parade passing the new places of interest around the park? How did you ‘randomly' arrive in a location with much lower footfall where you can breeze in and order some burgers and drinks? It's the science of building client experience using real-time data.
What does this mean for us at Blue Zinc you may well ask? Our constant goal is to help our clients use their data in much the same way; to optimise the care pathway for patients while at the same time making their own internal systems as efficient and productive as possible. People often worry about the moral aspect of large data –I believe in its moral application. If we can harness the information to create the experience that our customers want; if we can make their lives easier through the value chain from data to information to knowledge, and if we can eliminate wasted time by automating the data processes and direct people's effort into the most productive processes, then we are having a positive impact.
I'm a senior leader in business development and project / program management with previous assignments in both public and private sectors, across IT and consulting services domains. I have expertise in large-scale data projects, having built my experience in geological data for the oil and gas industry. I have client-facing skills in varying project environments, directing virtual, international and multi-cultural teams. I have an MBA from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and I am accredited by the Project Management Institute [PMP] and the Global Academy of Finance and Management [MPM]. I'm also a member of the Harvard Law School Programme on Negotiations.