How Data is Changing the Landscape for Healthcare Associations

Healthcare data is being generated at a record pace and associations are poised to leverage this valuable resource for their members.

By Kim Kelly, CAE

Big healthcare data - image of a hand writing with blue glowing connected web over it

“Data is the new oil.” This phrase was coined by Clive Humby, a British mathematician, in 2006. Some experts argue that data is actually the world’s most valuable resource, not oil. Like oil, data is not valuable in its raw state, but rather when it is gathered quickly, accurately, and analyzed (or refined, if we’re sticking with the oil metaphor).  

Associations have always collected data, but traditionally it’s been in the form of membership information or event data—meaning everything from registrations to post-event surveys. The data associations collect is often used for planning purposes, goal setting, and marketing. But associations have an opportunity to do much more with data. This is especially true for healthcare associations. 

Sonal Chandler, MIT, PMP, CSM, partner at BData, Inc


“Now, more than ever, associations have an opportunity to leverage data in an innovative way. This can help them create new product offerings that add value to their members; create new revenue streams; and drive their missions forward,” says Sonal Chandler, MIT, PMP, CSM, partner at BData, Inc

She explains that everything—from a visit to the doctor, to wearable technology, to health insurance claims—generates data. While this amount of data can feel overwhelming to unpack, BData sees it as an opportunity. The young company works with healthcare associations to analyze their own data and draw from other healthcare data sources to create products and insights for members.  

“Having a ton of data being collected from various sources allows you to paint this holistic picture of the patient’s journey and all the different types of care they’ve been provided,” says Chandler. “Despite significant advances in healthcare data connectivity we still see challenges around connecting a patient’s longitudinal data—data that basically tells the history of their care—and detailed clinical data,” she explains. This is where she sees healthcare associations stepping in to rallying their membership around patient registries and other data-centric offerings. 

Data is changing the landscape of healthcare, and associations have an opportunity to play a key role in what that change looks like. Associations are first and foremost beholden to their members. For healthcare associations, that means understanding the challenges that their members face when providing care, looking at outcomes, and improving the type of care provided. Leveraging data is a way to close that gap. 

One example of this use of data involved the American Burn Association (ABA). The ABA established the National Burn Repository to facilitate the improvement of patient care. In the past, this repository was populated with data from disparate platforms offering limited flexibility and varying quality, with no central point of access for members. “BData’s team worked in partnership with ABA staff and volunteers to develop a burn care registry platform that is easy to use and generates reports that will ultimately help our members improve the quality of care to patients,” says Kimberly A. Hoarle, MBA, CAE, executive director, American Burn Association in a 2021 case study about the project. 


Through collaboration, ABA and BData created a cloud-based solution called the Burn Care Quality Platform (BCQP). This platform identifies, collects, curates, and analyzes healthcare data. Importantly, this system provides ABA members access to interactive reports and enables them to evaluate their own facility performance against national benchmarks. BData states that “the platform is robust enough and offers modules that support activities such as accreditation and risk modeling, including workflows to help ensure high quality patient care.” 


This is just one example of how data can be leveraged to meet an organization’s mission. Chandler also acknowledges that data can be used as a revenue stream—which is top-of-mind for all associations as they look for ways to diversify both revenue and product portfolios. Associations can use data  to engage various stakeholders such as researchers, providers, or life science companies. Not only does this boost member engagement, but also creates opportunities to have dialogue between these stakeholders, as well as promote a sense of community. 

Another key factor to using data is an association’s value proposition. Associations face more competition for producing value than ever before. Gone are the days when members can only access quality education and conferences through a professional association. By investing in a data strategy that aligns with an association’s strategic plan, associations can offer new value to members. This could be through a robust data registry like the ABA offers members, or it could be through cutting-edge research using data. 

Associations also have the opportunity to act as custodians of data by providing governance, organizing the data to support quality measures within a clinical space, and developing clinical practice guidelines and disseminating information to patient and care provider communities.  

Data security is often a barrier that keeps an association from embracing data. Chandler stresses that partnering with a firm like BData, who understands data security and how to navigate it, will help alleviate some of these challenges. Rallying board members to realize the value of data is another challenge that Associations often face and why BData has developed tools and processes to help associations leaders successfully develop data strategies with supporting business cases.  

Data can feel overwhelming for many organizations and understanding how to get started can often be an association’s biggest hurdle. “You need to think about data as a journey that, over time, will add value to your members and organization” says Chandler. “I think the question for an association, especially in this post-pandemic era, is: as an organization what are you doing to continue to stay top-of-mind with your members and relevant within the clinical space that you serve?” 

Many associations don’t have the internal resources to dive deep into this type of data, let alone build products leveraging both member data and other data sources. Chandler would argue that this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing data projects. There are more vendors in this space than ever before, and they can help guide your association through data collection, analysis, and innovation. The first step is embracing big data and the value it can bring to your organization. 

About the Author

Kim Kelly is Association Forum's Editor-in-Chief. She has nearly 15 year's experience in association management and owns <a href="https://kimkellyconsulting.com/">Kim Kelly Consulting</a>.

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