Using Big Data for Better Health Outcomes

Christine Kern, a writer for Insight Enterprises

The speed and scale of the current challenges and demands experienced by today’s healthcare organizations are unprecedented. The creation of ever-increasing amounts of data, coupled with the application of new advances in treatment, diagnosis and analytics, means that healthcare is on the brink of some major developments. The promise of analytics lies in its ability to transform healthcare into a truly data-driven culture.

While privacy and security risks are challenges to using big data, the potential positives outweigh the negatives. Healthcare data is considered the most complex and disconnected set of any industry, but successfully exploiting these opportunities provides huge returns not only financially, but also for the quality of care.

“The trend to see and use information as an asset is still in the ‘early adoption’ phase, making doing so a competitive differentiator for leading organizations. But even where information leaders have embraced this idea, there’s an array of challenges to transform the idea of value into a reality that benefits the organization. Information has economic value that organizations can ‘turn into money’ in two ways: selling, bartering or licensing it; and by using it to reduce costs or increase revenue. Yet most information and business leaders lack the experience and tools to monetize information,” asserts the Gartner report, “Seven Steps to Monetizing Your Information Assets,” published October 15, 2015.

Healthcare data’s healing effects

Historically, the relationship between patient experience and healthcare outcomes has been neglected. That’s because hospital staff leaders believed they needed to remain objective and clinical with patients to provide effective care. But in the wake of federal mandates focused on shifting to value-based payment models, as well as the demand for higher efficiency and improved patient outcomes, big data is changing how hospital decision makers approach their patients’ experiences.

From collaboration, to building sustainable systems and increasing access to healthcare, big data and analytics solutions are helping healthcare organizations improve health outcomes and efficiency. When federal IT and business executives from healthcare-related agencies were polled by Meritalk regarding the benefits of big data in March 2014, 63 percent stated that it will help track and manage population health more efficiently; 62 percent said that it will significantly improve patient care within the military health and Veterans Affairs systems; and 60 percent replied that it will enhance the ability to deliver preventive care.

Take the Cleveland Clinic, for example. It implemented analytics in 2009 to improve patient services. Chief Experience Officer Dr. James Merlino ordered a quantitative and qualitative study on patient expectations. The results revealed that patients wanted hospital staff to feel emotionally engaged in their care, contrary to historic interpretations of patient expectations

“We were surprised by these findings, and I never would have known any of this without digging into the data with hardcore analytics,” Merlino explains. “But through analytics, we gained valuable insights as to how patients really felt.”

Big Data benefits

While exploiting data requires savvy application, those organizations on the forefront of efficiency are already reaping the benefits of big data analytics. According to the Harvard Business Review, “They have adopted IT platforms and IT systems that simplify processes, while expanding and improving the scope and spread of care at a lower total cost of operation. The evolving IT platforms link disparate pools of data within and outside healthcare organizations, and present the information with visualization tools that put actionable insights into the hands of caregivers and patients, enabling providers to invent new healthcare practices as needed.”

The push for big data is being driven by the demand to create more value in healthcare. “The healthcare system of today is based on fee-for-service and reimbursement for activity, with little or no connection to value,” says Daniel Garret, partner and leader of PwC’s Healthcare IT practice. “The IT platforms of tomorrow need to serve the new health economy, which centers on patient outcomes and reimbursement for creating value.”

Ultimately, the strategic and savvy use of big data analytics means reimagining not only how data is used, but also how healthcare is delivered. “We need to remove the barriers of time and space between the patient, the doctor and the healthcare administrator,” says Garret. “It’s about not just crunching a lot of data, but inserting that data at key moments when healthcare is delivered and consumed.”

To find out how your healthcare organization can benefit from big data, access Gartner’s report, “Seven Steps to Monetizing Your Information Assets,” which makes recommendations for using data to get ahead in today’s digital world.”


analytics, Big Data, Data Governance, Insight Enterprises, Seven Steps to Monetizing Your Information Assets


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