High expectations for big data among healthcare execs, but hurdles remain

Healthcare executives have high expectations for the potential of big data, with a talent shortage and lack of resources being the biggest barriers to use, according to a new survey from the Society of Actuaries.

In the survey, three numbers stand out:

  • 87 percent say they perceive data as impactful on future business
  • 84 percent say they have had difficulty finding staff skilled in optimizing big data
  • 45 percent plan to hire more skilled staff within the next year

Of the 258 executives surveyed, two-thirds say they are excited about the future potential of big data, while a majority (87 percent) agree that big data is an "important development that will have at least some impact on their business in the future," according to an announcement. Roughly half of the respondents (49 percent) indicated, however, that at present, big data provides "little to no business benefit."

"The key question is how do we take the massive amount of information and translate it into healthcare delivery. We have to begin by asking the right questions in order to get the right information and insights from the data. That process has begun," Robert Pearl, M.D., CEO of the Permanente Medical Group and the Mid-Atlantic Medical Group, said in the survey announcement. 

Despite setbacks, big data isn't all talk and buzzwords--CIO magazine recently highlighted several real-life cases of healthcare organizations that are using big data analytics to improve outcomes and reduce costs in a slideshow. The cases bridge traditional analytics and big data pushes with "rapid, agile insight delivery" to the point of decision. 

So far, though, health payers are more invested in the power of big data and analytics tools than providers, according a recent report. SOA survey responded that both payers and providers have difficulty securing budget to hire staff to synthesize complex datasets, but do recognize an immediate need to do so.

"To find the right talent, you have to look in non- traditional places, sometimes even different industries.  As a profession, actuaries have their roots in data and analytics and are already doing the work of data scientists," Carol McCall, chief strategy officer for GNS Healthcare and health fellow for SOA, is quote as saying in the study. "However, executives don't always think about actuaries when looking for the right talent and skillset to leverage the opportunities with Big Data, when in fact, there is no better profession to which they should look."

To learn more:
- see the survey results
- read the announcement from SOA

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