Abstract

A data warehouse is a centrally managed and easily accessible copy of data collected in the transaction information systems of a corporation. These data are aggregated, organized, catalogued and structured to facilitate population-based queries, research and analysis. As healthcare becomes more computerized, particularly with the greater adoption of electronic health records, there will be an accompanying and inevitable evolution from workflow automation and data collection to process optimization and data analysis. Data warehouses offer a technological tool to enable data analysis and process optimization and have proven their enormous value in other applications, including manufacturing, retail, space exploration, marketing and e-commerce. However, as these other industries learned in their journey toward data analysis, data warehouse projects are also prone to large and expensive failures. As a result of these failures, data warehousing has evolved in recent years into a subspecialty of information systems. This article summarizes the key principles and concepts underlying the specialty area of data warehousing, specifically addressing the unique issues in healthcare.