Healthcare Dives Into Big Data - InformationWeek

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5/14/2014
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Healthcare Dives Into Big Data

Healthcare organizations hope big data and analytics projects can help reduce costs and improve care. Consider these innovative examples.
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With the mandated adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), many healthcare professionals for the first time got centralized access to patient records. Now they're figuring out how to use all this information. Although the healthcare industry has been slow to delve into big data, that might be about to change. At stake: not only money saved from more efficient use of information, but also new research and treatments -- and that's just the beginning.

For instance, data from wireless, wearable devices such as FitBits is expected to eventually flood providers and insurers; by 2019, spending on wearables-data collection will reach $52 million, according to ABI Research. Another source of health data waiting to be analyzed: social media. Monitoring what people post can help fight insurance fraud and improve customer service.

These are just two ways big data can be used to improve care while cutting costs, experts say.

"We, as a society, need to start creating our own metrics for how healthcare quality is defined. In the sense of looking at costs, we know where there's avoidable cost in healthcare. We just need to get folks the data they need to avoid those pitfalls," said Dr. Anil Jain, senior VP and chief medical officer at Explorys, in an interview. Explorys, which is an innovation spinoff from Cleveland Clinic, is powering Accenture's Predictive Health Intelligence in a collaboration intended to help life sciences companies determine the combination of treatments and services that can lead to better patient, provider, and economic outcomes for diabetics.

Hosted analytics, partnerships and collaborations, and lower-cost internal applications open the door for smaller organizations to use big data, too.

"Earlier, data warehousing and analytics was restricted to larger organizations because it was cost prohibitive. What big data has done has brought it down to smaller orgs. But the biggest challenge with these smaller markets and mid-tier organizations is resources," Manmeet Singh, co-founder and CEO of Dataguise, told us. "Cloud is becoming very prevalent. They're going to store a lot of data in the cloud. They'll outsource a lot of that data to the cloud. Automation of compliance is important."

Having witnessed the impact that big data and analytics have on other markets -- and perhaps on competing healthcare organizations -- healthcare CEOs want to know how their organizations can use these tools. In a PwC study, 95% of healthcare CEOs said they were exploring better ways to harness and manage big data.

Increasingly, CIOs can find similar organizations with pilot or full-blown projects. Forest Laboratories, for example, is collaborating with ConvergeHealth by Deloitte and Intermountain Healthcare on research to benefit patients with respiratory diseases. Using the collaborative, rapid-learning system developed by Intermountain and ConvergeHealth, Forest's researchers use OutcomesMiner analytics software to develop new treatments and therapeutic products and improve patient outcomes.

The move to value-based payments means healthcare providers are taking on more risk, says Jeff Elton, managing director of Life Sciences for Accenture. To manage risk and treat patients most appropriately, providers need data -- accurate data from a range of sources, he tells us.

Expanding use of big data across healthcare organizations should sound some alarms within C-level suites, Singh cautions. "From my perspective, security and compliance should be discussed from the get go. It should be part of their overall strategy."

In the meantime, some healthcare organizations already have plunged into big-data analytics, with impressive results. Click through our slideshow to see some innovative uses of analytics in healthcare.

How are you using big data in healthcare projects? Let us know in the comments section.

Alison Diana is an experienced technology, business and broadband editor and reporter. She has covered topics from artificial intelligence and smart homes to satellites and fiber optic cable, diversity and bullying in the workplace to measuring ROI and customer experience. An ... View Full Bio

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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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5/19/2014 | 2:20:04 PM
Re: Big Data Strategy
Thanks for the additional information, @Jim. Doximity appears a natural fit for your business. Clinical trials increasingly use social media as part of their recruitment and identification, especially as patients become more willing to discuss their symptoms, side effects, treatments, and other topics on sites -- especially dedicated communities or health-specific platforms. Having the right tools in place to gather and analyze this wealth of information is critical, otherwise pharma and other healthcare orgs omit a huge piece of the complex puzzle -- the patient. 

Are you also incorporating medical device tracking tools like Fitbits and Jawbones into your data-capture or isn't this information your clients want/need/can use? 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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5/19/2014 | 9:36:59 AM
Re: Big Data Strategy
@Jim - Thanks for sharing your team's story. Fascinating how you've incorporate social, business, and educational connections to focus on how and why clinicans practice in the way they do. I'm really interested, too, into your inclusion of social media, specifically providers' tweets and blogs. Are you also looking to partner with some of the healthcare-specific social media sites?

Sounds as though one way in which you separate yourself from competitors is by how 'clean' your data is. I'd think, too, with the inclusion of social and the ability to provide big data analytics you're also differentiating via the breadth, depth of data? What other ways do organizations like yours compete, especially as this is such a hugely attractive market for investors and entrepreneurs right now! 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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5/16/2014 | 9:05:46 AM
Re: Wearables for Healthcare
Thanks for the suggestion, @eyu906. I've just started working on a piece on that topic: Over the next week or so, I'll be interviewing execs about the opportunities and challenges wearables create for healthcare providers, insurers, et al, in terms of data. Obviously, these devices generate a LOT of information -- info that could be incredibly useful -- but that's also incredibly time-consuming unless organizations figure out efficient, automated ways to analyze it and discover actionable nuggets. So please keep visiting InformationWeek.com to look for this story later in May.

What other information do you want to see from a story like this?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
5/14/2014 | 5:07:13 PM
Re: Big Data Strategy
Thanks for sharing LexisNexis' experience in analytics within healthcare. I had not realized the extent to which this company was involved in healthcare although I knew, of course, LexisNexis was heavily involved in analytics and big data work. When organizations discover savings and reduce fraud, waste, theft, and abuse, the entire system benefits. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
5/14/2014 | 10:11:57 AM
Re: Due North Analytics
Thanks for sharing Due North's story. This slideshow was meant to only encapsulate a few of the many stories out there -- and there'll be many more to come in the months and years ahead. There are many startups entering this space right now, in part because there's quite a lot of investment capital floating around. Investors are bullish on this market -- and rightly so, IMHO. Whenever I see news stories trumpeting the results of multiple studies across many years, I realize the power of analytics (and perhaps big data) was behind those findings. And this is only the beginning. 
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