Introduction to Competitive Advantage in Information Systems

As you read, think about how using, protecting, and managing information and data could support an organization's competitive advantage. Conversely, failure to protect data, particularly personal information, could reduce or destroy any competitive advantage within a business. How does understanding customer information and data support current operations? How might it impact future operations?

Where Does Data Come From?


Sometimes firms supplement operational data with additional input from surveys and focus groups. Oftentimes, direct surveys can tell you what your cash register can't. Zara store managers informally survey customers in order to help shape designs and product mix. Online grocer FreshDirect surveys customers weekly and has used this feedback to drive initiatives from reducing packaging size to including star ratings on produce. Many CRM products also have survey capabilities that allow for additional data gathering at all points of customer contact.

Can Technology "Cure" U.S. Health Care?

The U.S. health care system is broken. It's costly, inefficient, and problems seem to be getting worse. Estimates suggest that health care spending makes up a whopping 18 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. U.S. automakers spend more on health care than they do on steel. Even more disturbing, it's believed that medical errors cause as many as ninety-eight thousand unnecessary deaths in the United States each year, more than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS.

For years it's been claimed that technology has the potential to reduce errors, improve health care quality, and save costs. Now pioneering hospital networks and technology companies are partnering to help tackle cost and quality issues. For a look at possibilities for leveraging data throughout the doctor-patient value chain, consider the "event-driven medicine" system built by Dr. John Halamka and his team at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (part of the Harvard Medical School network).

When docs using Halamka's system encounter a patient with a chronic disease, they generate a decision support "screening sheet". Each event in the system: an office visit, a lab results report (think the medical equivalent of transactions and customer interactions), updates the patient database. Combine that electronic medical record information with artificial intelligence on best practice, and the system can offer recommendations for care, such as, "Patient is past due for an eye exam" or, "Patient should receive pneumovax [a vaccine against infection] this season". The systems don't replace decision making by doctors and nurses, but they do help to ensure that key issues are on a provider's radar.

More efficiencies and error checks show up when prescribing drugs. Docs are presented with a list of medications covered by that patient's insurance, allowing them to choose quality options while controlling costs. Safety issues, guidelines, and best practices are also displayed. When correct, safe medication in the right dose is selected, the electronic prescription is routed to the patients' pharmacy of choice. As Halamka puts it, going from "doctor's brain to patients vein" without any of that messy physician handwriting, all while squeezing out layers where errors from human interpretation or data entry might occur.

President Obama believes technology initiatives can save health care as much as $120 billion a year, or roughly two thousand five hundred dollars per family. An aggressive number, to be sure. But with such a large target to aim at, it's no wonder that nearly every major technology company now has a health solutions group. Microsoft and Google even offer competing systems for electronically storing and managing patient health records. If systems like Halamka's and others realize their promise, big benefits may be just around the corner.