Tim SpaethAccording to IBM, the global population creates 2.5 billion gigabytes of data every day. That means that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been generated in just the past two years, which explains the explosion of Big Data that has become available to companies worldwide for data analysis to guide strategic decision-making. The statistics are already mind-boggling, and the pace of information creation will only increase.

The influx of Big Data has changed how companies in every industry manage, analyze, and leverage information. Health care is just one of those industries—but one of the most promising. With the help of data analytics, healthcare organizations have the potential to reduce costs of treatment, better predict outbreaks of epidemics, improve management of preventable diseases, and enhance population health management efforts. Healthcare professionals, like business entrepreneurs, are increasingly able to collect a wide range of data, even as innovative strategies are being developed rapidly to enable practical use of these vast stores of data.

One of the key trends driving adoption of Big Data in health care is the move toward what is commonly referred to as “evidence-based medicine.” This approach factors the increasing amount of available clinical data into individual information using advanced analytics. Being able to collect and analyze detailed information about each patient gives healthcare stakeholders valuable insight that helps them improve care coordination, population health management, and patient engagement and outreach.

Traditionally, healthcare IT departments were principally focused on avoiding risk and protecting data and infrastructure—availability of equipment and information was more important than business outcomes. But beginning in the early 2000s, healthcare providers found themselves with access to enormous amounts of data. The challenge was that resided in myriad discrete applications. Reporting systems were separate from transaction systems as an example.

Executives with profit and loss responsibilities wanted to be able to connect the dots to derive business value from analytics, which requires more than mere reporting. The CFO wants to be able to drill down into this comprehensive data to achieve real insight capable of translating to improved business outcomes. CIOs today must be actively engaged in strategy development and execution that enables the health system to leverage this wealth of data to improve productivity and generate revenue. One example of such improvement is the potential for hundreds of billions of dollars in savings each year for healthcare organizations that use analytics to help patients follow their drug regimens.

The advent of robust analytics tools for both predictive as well as post-collection analysis and rationalization puts increased pressure on IT departments to play a more strategic role, to not only collect the data but be involved in distribution that ultimately results in measurable improvements to business results.

The Proof Is in The Big Data

Strategic uses of Big Data in the healthcare industry are gaining traction because of the considerable business value they generate. More than half of healthcare executives polled for a new Society of Actuaries survey see predictive analytics saving their organizations 15 percent or more of their total budget within the next five years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services stated that it was able to prevent more than $210.7 million in healthcare fraud in one year using predictive analytics. UnitedHealthcare achieved a 2,200 percent ROI after deploying a predictive modeling solution to identify inaccurate claims. According to a recent report from McKinsey, Kaiser Permanente has improved outcomes in cardiovascular disease and achieved an estimated $1 billion in savings from reduced office visits and lab tests by implementing a system to document and exchange information enterprisewide.

Making a Bigger Difference

Thanks to the Big Data revolution, the healthcare industry will be able to use data collected across a range of sources to anticipate problems and issues while helping government payers and health plans get a better handle on administrative issues, cut costs, and address inefficiencies. And in the not-too-distant future, physicians will be able to use genomic data to develop truly personalized treatment regimens for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

The increasing amount of available data may soon make it possible to consider a patient’s genetic, lifestyle, and environmental data alongside the data of thousands of other patients. Health plans and government payers will be able to tap into these data to create new best practices to support these innovations in care. Patients will have consistently better health outcomes.

The time is now for users of Big Data across the healthcare industry to rethink what kinds of data are collected and how information is shared and used.

There are opportunities to create innovative solutions that can help improve patients’ lives as well as drive efficiency and productivity for health plans. Healthcare organizations that recognize the importance of high-quality data can help leverage the information at hand to drive innovation.


Tim Spaeth is senior vice president, payer solutions, Episource, Los Angeles.                                

Publication Date: Monday, July 24, 2017