Health information management pros must champion big data use

Health information management professionals play an integral role in determining whether their organizations embrace big data and use it effectively, according to an article in the October issue of the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association.

HIM pros, according to the authors, should urge key stakeholders to seize on data analysis as a strategic asset that that can improve care, create efficiencies and cut costs for providers, researchers and management.

Kristen Wilson-Jones, vice president of data and online services for Sacramento-based Sutter Health, told the authors that big data will allow healthcare organizations to apply "mass personalization" similar to that used in consumer product design and manufacturing. Meanwhile, Murali Ramanathan, Ph.D., lead researcher at SUNY Buffalo, said big data can and will take research to a whole new level.

"We can now rapidly analyze larger data sets including thousands of genetic variations, many environmental factors, and the interaction between them to gain valuable new insights that weren't possible before," he said.

Indeed, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in announcing an ambitious initiative to fight eight cancers last month, cited improved computing capabilities among the factors fueling its effort. What's more, a new genomic supercomputing platform unveiled last week can speed cancer genome analysis from months to just seconds.

In a discussion of basic elements of big data success, the authors said that establishing data governance and defining data objectives were tops on the priority list. Among data's uses, they said, are analyzing data in motion, such as real-time ICU monitoring; research for discovery and experimentation; and fraud detection and monitoring. 

"From a broad perspective, HIM professionals should ensure that industry leadership understands the value that HIM brings to big data," the authors said.

With massive amounts of data collected, the next step is figuring out how to take action based on that data, the authors added. Researchers in Pakistan, for instance, have applied statistical analysis to Google Flu Trends in an effort to turn it into an early warning system for epidemics.

That sort of real-time predictive analysis is far from the norm, according to a recent CHIME survey. But forward-looking decision-making based on data remains the Holy Grail in many organizations' plans.

To learn more:
- read the article