Incomplete info sets a roadblock to provider use of big data

Healthcare entities take unrealistic strides to use big data, resulting in a lag for the industry, according to consultant Randy Bean.

Bean, CEO and managing partner of consultancy NewVantage Partners, said in a Wall Street Journal post this week that financial service firms are light-years ahead of the healthcare industry when it comes to collecting, organizing and analyzing data. He spoke with two executives on big data in healthcare--both of whom previously had careers in the financial services industry--as well as a senior clinician and professor at Harvard Medical School.

Phil Fasano, the executive vice president and CIO for Kaiser Permanente, previously worked as chief business information officer at Capital One Financial Corp. and as CIO at JP Morgan Chase & Co. Fasano told Bean that the healthcare business is one of discovery, which lends itself to the promise of big data. Fasano added that the future of big data lies in its "ability to support the safest, highest quality, most individualized care without constraint of borders and boundaries."

However, borders and boundaries are a challenge in healthcare, a highly regulated industry. Breaches of consumers' information have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights cracking down on healthcare systems that don't make security a top priority in managing their information systems.

Aside from security, trying to gain insight from incomplete data sets also is a roadblock, according to Bean.

Partial sets cause professionals to have to work with "'pretty good' 80/20 information," Blue Cross Blue Shield COO Bill Wray told Bean. "Getting people aligned to think this way is the critical first step that precedes any technological decisions," he said.

But, while healthcare "has been late to the game," it is catching up fast, Daniel Talmor--a professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and interim chairman of the department of anesthesia, critical care, and pain medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston--told Bean.

Healthcare providers more often turn to different sources of electronic data for their analytics efforts, according to a survey published late last month by the eHealth Initiative and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. Still, providers continue to rely on basic operations to support such efforts. Less than half of responding organizations said that they use data from patient portals and health risk assessments, while close to one-third said they currently do not analyze patient-generated data.

Read more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article