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Data Virtualization Interest Is On the Rise

October 1, 2010
by John DeGaspari
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A recent survey suggests data virtualization may make inroads in healthcare applications

A survey conducted by Composite Software, Inc., San Mateo, Calif., a supplier of data virtualization products, has found increasing interest in the use of data virtualization as part of enterprise-wide data integration strategies. Robert Eve, executive vice president, says the findings are pertinent for large enterprises, such as healthcare providers, which have various sources of data.

Eve describes data virtualization as a way of pulling together data from multiple sources. He says it is a lower cost alternative to data warehousing. In his view, data virtualization is especially useful for “wide, shallow” types of queries, such as requesting a single patient’s information across various sources.

The results of the survey are based on the replies of 143 respondents, including CIOs, business intelligence consultants, database administrators and developers. About 10 percent of the respondents were involved in some way with the healthcare industry. Overall, 47 percent of all respondents expressed interest in using data virtualization in their organizations; those involved with the healthcare industry were in line with that figure, Eve says.

Eighty percent of respondents in the healthcare industry expressed an interest in using data virtualization to improved analytics or business intelligence, compared to 64 percent overall. “That’s a pretty significant increase,” Eve says, who cited a need to analyze data amid changing regulations and new service models taking place in the healthcare industry today. He says there is a need for more “agility” in analyzing data.

In addition, infrastructure costs also rated as a very high priority among the healthcare industry respondents. Ninety-two percent of the respondents in healthcare indicated that reduction of infrastructure costs was the top benefit of data virtualization. “There is a significant awareness of IT cost now in the healthcare space,” Eve says.

While Eve acknowledges that data virtualization is a relatively new technology that has yet to see widespread adoption among healthcare providers, he sees potential in the use of data virtualization among hospital organizations. As hospitals convert from paper-based to electronic patient records, data virtualization can help use information in a way that aids decision-making, patient care and cost saving, Eve says. “Once it’s digitized, we can make [the information] available in a controlled fashion,” he says.

In addition, Eve sees the emergence of health information exchanges is a potential application for data virtualization. Half of the survey’s respondents cited real-time data sharing as a best-use case for data virtualization.

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