Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Role of Big Data in Health Care

In health care delivery systems, data science promises to save lives; improve quality control; reduce the price of health care; reduce hospital costs; discover efficiencies; streamline the flow of work, information, supplies and equipment; and thus, to transform healthcare as we know it. 

There is no rational argument against major reform and re-working of our old-fashioned, inefficient healthcare systems. I should know. The author is a former Registered Nurse, Nurse educator; Director of Nurses and health system/clinic board of directors member. Yes, I spent the last 35+ years in technology, but I started out in health care delivery. So just what are we looking at?

From immediate appointments without repetitive forms to decision-making based on science, not intuition or guesswork, the “big data” revolution will touch every aspect of our health care delivery system in a significant and positive manner.

"At the heart of many health care industry debates is what to do about data: how to realize its value for quality care, bending the cost curve, how to share it and how to secure it. Health care providers face significant obstacles in implementing analytics, BI tools and data warehousing. Health data is diverse and distributed in hard-to-penetrate silos owned by a multitude of stakeholders. To complicate matters, each stakeholder has different interests and business incentives while still being closely intertwined."  Institute of Health Technology Transformation
The literature reveals an early stage interest in and adoption of “data science,” often expressed as “big data,” to achieve measurable improvements in efficiency; discover bottlenecks; and extract meaningful, actionable data from the estimated 150 exabytes of data that has been generated to date in US healthcare institutions.

“Big data are high volume, high velocity and/or high variety information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization.” Gartner Group
The initial focus of these efforts to harness the power of “big data” is around workflow monitoring and improvement; information and communication management; EMR; outcome improvements; performance improvement; QA, safety, epidemiology; trend spotting; and, waste reduction.  And billing optimization. It is disappointing to this writer that some initial efforts to leverage big date in healthcare are around billing, and not outcomes. Experts agree that this transition needs to be patient-centric: not profit-centric.

There are many, additional opportunities for leveraging big data as well, including: facilities and plant management; personnel management; and, equipment and supply management.

That’s why companies like Premier Healthcare Alliance and Explorys (an offshoot of the Cleveland Clinic) are successful in this space… in addition to recent entrants GE and an IBM/Cisco collaboration. GE just ramped-up a new HC-oriented practice and immediately hired 400 new staff. That said, there’s room for a lot more players in the major league, including regional players.

The move to "performance-based" reimbursement from traditional "fee-for-service" models is also driving the transition to big data within health care delivery systems. The federal government, in an attempt to control costs, increase transparency, and establish accountability; has mandated the capture of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in all of the healthcare delivery environments and agencies it funds/supports. The value of KPIs to healthcare is explored in more depth in this article from the Lean Six Sigma Healthcare blog.

Why is this important?

Citing a 2011 McKinsey & Co. study,  the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (IHT2), a New York-based research and consulting firm said the U.S. healthcare industry could potentially save $300 billion a year with the help of advanced analytics, but healthcare organizations continue to struggle with managing and leveraging the vast stores of data they are building up.

By 2011, U.S. healthcare organizations had generated 150 exabytes -- that's 150 billion gigabytes -- of data, IHT2 said. Kaiser Permanente alone might have as much as 44 petabytes of patient data just from its electronic health record (EHR) system, or 4,400 times the amount of information held at the Library of Congress.  Source:

The new firm, Analytics 2 Insight, that I co-founded with my friend and colleague Michael Davies, MBA CFA, prepared this slide deck to highlight the services we offer health care providers/systems.

Editor's Note: This is the second post in a planned series. Preliminary posts cover the basics. The first post in the series is here. More specific articles are planned to explore the details...  #BigData #Analytics #Metrics #KPIs #healthcare

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