Healthcare Execs Must Prepare For Big Data

As healthcare industry braces for proliferation of information, University of Southern California healthcare chief stresses need to make data easy to interpret.

Neil Versel, Contributor

October 8, 2012

3 Min Read

5 Key Elements For Clinical Decision Support Systems

5 Key Elements For Clinical Decision Support Systems

5 Key Elements For Clinical Decision Support Systems (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Big data, including the advent of genomic medicine, is altering how providers manage information, according to the chief executive of a major West Coast academic healthcare organization.

"Big data is going to change the rules of IT departments and beyond," said Thomas Jackiewicz, who was named senior VP and CEO of Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California at the beginning of 2012. "We have to become experts at managing data," he said.

Jackiewicz spoke Friday at the sixth annual USC Body Computing Conference, dedicated to wearable and wireless technology and interdisciplinary collaboration for health improvement, at the school's downtown Los Angeles campus. He elaborated in a private conversation with InformationWeek Healthcare.

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As the price of genome sequencing comes down, data will proliferate. "The amount of data you get when you sequence a genome is enormous," said Jackiewicz, who formerly served as CEO of the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences. He has also run healthcare business and financial operations at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University School of Medicine, and Columbia University Medical Center. "You have to have people who can interpret data, [and make it clinically relevant for physicians,"] he said in an address at the conference. "We can't expect every one of our clinicians to be a geneticist."

Cardiologist Dr. Leslie Saxon, founder and director of the Center for Body Computing, quickly interjected on behalf of her fellow USC doctors. "That was music to our ears," she said.

Vast quantities of real-time information also are starting to come from wireless monitoring devices that postoperative patients and those with chronic diseases are wearing at home and in their daily lives. "Wireless can change inpatient care, outpatient care, and home care," Jackiewicz said. "Patients are beginning to assume shared responsibility for their care," he added.

Although genomics remains in its early stages, the time to start preparing is now, according to Jackiewicz, who invoked hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."

This is an apt metaphor for the changes that are currently happening in medicine. "If we as an organization are always chasing the puck, we're never going to get anywhere," Jackiewicz said.

With this in mind, Jackiewicz predicted that academic medical centers will become hubs for information and analysis that community physicians will be able to tap when they're deciding on more personalized courses of treatment for cancer, for example, to draw from more resources than are available today. "An academic medical center can really bring expertise to bear," Jackiewicz said.

"You're already beginning to see this," Jackiewicz reported. He believes that personalization will be the standard of care in cancer treatment within three to five years, whether or not electronic health records (EHRs) are capable of supporting it. Jackiewicz said genomic medicine will be ahead even of Stage 3 of the federal Meaningful Use EHR incentive program, which is on track to start in 2016.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

About the Author(s)

Neil Versel


Neil Versel is a journalist specializing in health IT, mobile health, patient safety, quality of care & the business of healthcare. He’s also a board member of @HealtheVillages.

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