There are a series of applications available that I call “extract-ware”.  These applications receive an extract of your data with the promise of allowing you to have the ability to analyze and monitor your data.  They are generally dealing with a niche like productivity, quality, provider benchmarking or market share.

I am very skeptical of these systems.  My experience is that they are typically 10 times more complicated than leaders expect and are often used much less widely than expected.

These systems are sold to business leaders that do not understand the underlying data.  The sellers of these systems leave the business buyers with the impression that these extracts are simple and every hospital has the exact same data.  In the end it turns into a huge exercise.  It is left to interpret some extract specification and deal with the following:

  • Data is simply not available, which requires lengthy process changes.
  • Data is not clean, leaders have used fields to store different data than intended.
  • Data requires significant mapping, which is a huge ongoing burden for IT.

Usually the data issues can be conquered (with a significant and unanticipated amount of time and money).  But, in my experience, these systems still tend to fail.  They simple never get the widespread adoption originally anticipated.  Users, who want the data, never use it for a variety of reasons:

  • Often these systems require additional credentials.  Since users access these systems infrequently they can’t recall their password when they go to use the system – and they don’t have the time to call the help desk.
  • The systems lack the level of development needed to make them intuitive and easy to use.  If any training at all is required, they will fail.
  • Complicating this is that they have multiple extract-ware systems, often with different credentials behaving and looking completely different.
  • Time

2 thoughts on “Extract-ware

  1. As an IT manager for a health care company I can relate to what you say but don’t fully agree. You are right that many outside vendors don’t always take the time to learn data. Plus as often as possible I want to build and not buy. But if the company commits these third parties provide speed, decent pricing and expertise that will take time for your infrastructure to compete with.

  2. Will,

    I like the term “extract-ware” and agree with you points. Too often are user community sees these as the answer to all there problems and fail to recognize the data issues involved. They want detailed data out of the system but don’t want to put detailed data in or to be responsible for making sure the data is accurate. Far too often these end up as “system” or “IT” problems when they are really “data” and “process” problems.


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