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Learning Health Care System

Posted on March 27, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent post by Andy Oram on EMR and EHR titles “Exploring the Role of Clinical Documentation: a Step Toward EHRs for Learning” he introduced me to the idea of what he called a Learning Health Care System. Here’s his description:

Currently a popular buzzword, a learning health care system collects data from clinicians, patients, and the general population to look for evidence and correlations that can improve the delivery of health care. The learning system can determine the prevalence of health disorders in an area, pick out which people are most at risk, find out how well treatments work, etc. It is often called a “closed loop system” because it can draw on information generated from within the system to change course quickly.

I really love the concept and description of a learning healthcare system. Unfortunately, I see so very little of this in our current EHR technology and that’s a travesty. However, it’s absolutely the way we need to head. Andy add this insight into why we don’t yet have a learning health care system:

“Vendors need to improve the ability of systems to capture and manage structured data.” We need structured data for our learning health care system, and we can’t wait for natural language processing to evolve to the point where it can reliably extract the necessary elements of a document.

While I agree that managed structured data would be helpful in reaching the vision of a learning healthcare system, I don’t think we have to wait for that to happen. We can already use the data that’s available to make our EHRs smarter than they are today. Certainly we can’t do everything that we’d like to do with them, but we can do something. We shouldn’t do nothing just because we can’t do everything.

Plus, I’ve written about this a number of times before, but we need to create a means for the healthcare system to learn and for healthcare systems to be able to easily share that learning. This might be a different definition of leaning than what Andy described. I think he was referencing a learning system that learns about the patient. I’m taking it one step further and we need a healthcare system that learns something about technology or data to be able to easily share that learning with other outside healthcare systems. That would be powerful.

What are your thoughts on what Andy calls a popular buzzword: A Learning Health Care System? Are we heading that direction? What’s holding us back?

Human Error Healthcare Data Breach Infographic

Posted on March 26, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

You all know I’m a sucker for an infographic and this one illustrates a topic we’ve known for a long time: humans are one of the biggest breach challenges. All the encryption and firewalls in the world can’t solve for a human who already has access. This infographic really illustrates that point well.

Human Error and Healthcare Data Breaches
Infographic based on ICO FOI request data by Egress Software Technologies, providers of email security as well as large file transfer and encryption software.

Healthcare: Prescribing a Hot Meal or Heating for Your House

Posted on March 25, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

When we think of healthcare, we often think of the doctors office or a hospital. We’ve talked many times before how doctors and hospitals today are really about sick care and not health care. If we were really worried about caring for the health of patients, we’d need to do so much more outside of the 4 walls of a doctor’s office or hospital. In fact, we know that it’s the 99% of time at home, work, etc that most influences our health.

With this as background, I was fascinated by this HP article which talks about a new kind of Big Data for healthcare. The article interviews Rebecca Onie, Co-Founder of Health Leads. This excerpt from the article describes the problem they’re trying to solve:

The work was borne out of conversations with physicians who professed profound frustration with delivering care to vulnerable patients. Patients would come into the clinic on a regular basis, and let’s say a kid has an ear infection. A physician can prescribe antibiotics, but the real issue is that there’s no food at home or they’re living in a car. Ninety percent of health outcomes are actually not dictated by clinical healthcare but by these other factors.

Doctors told me, “We don’t ask about these issues, because there’s nothing we can do. We know [healthful food] will have a more profound impact on our patients than anything we’re going to do in the next 13 minutes inside the four walls of the doctor’s office.”

I had a similar conversation with Mandi Bishop, Health Plan Analytics Innovation & Consulting Solutions Owner at Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences, when we were chatting at the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event. She highlighted to me how payers are now looking at how they can pay for ramps in people’s homes in order to help reduce the number of falls that occur.

I love how these simple ideas are so powerful. Obviously, the doctor who treats a person’s cough and cold isn’t very effective if that person goes back to a house which has no heat. We’re treating the symptom, not the problem. We can take care of the broken bones, bruises and other damage that comes from falls, or we could spend much less money preventing the falls by putting in a ramp at someone’s house.

We all intellectually understand why these changes should happen. However, there’s a massive challenge in being able to actually execute these programs. No payer wants to build out the “ramp building” capabilities that are needed to solve this problem. No doctor wants to be calling the utility companies to make sure that someone’s heat gets turned back on. However, they could partner with organizations like Health Leads to get this accomplished.

I know I’m still chewing on this idea. It’s absolutely expanded my thinking when it comes to healthcare and how we can really improve health. I hope it does the same for you. I also love describing it as a prescription for heat or a prescribing a hot meal. Maybe that’s corruption of the word prescription, but it definitely illustrates the idea so well.

Which EHR vendor is going to build in this new subscription service? Yeah, that’s right. None of them. Thus why the EHR vendor needs to open up the kimono for other people to deliver this type of service on top of the EHR platform.

Finding Simple Healthcare IT Solutions to Annoying Problems

Posted on March 23, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In my recent video interview with Lindy Benton, CEO of MEA|NEA, I came away with the feeling that there are a wide variety of simple healthcare IT solutions for many of the problems that annoy us in healthcare. In Lindy’s case, they work on solving the secure document transfer problem in healthcare. They work mostly with claims remediation and other billing related documentation, but the secure document transfer applies to a lot of areas of healthcare.

As a tech person, I was interested in how rather simple technology can solve such an important problem. However, Lindy and I talk about why many organizations still haven’t adopted these technologies in their office (Spoiler: The divide between billing organizations and IT). We also talk about why EHR vendors aren’t just providing these types of secure document transfer solutions.

You can watch my full video interview with Lindy Benton below:

Recorded Video from Dell Healthcare Think Tank Event – #DoMoreHIT

Posted on March 20, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I mentioned that I was going to be on the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event again this year. It was my 3rd time participating and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, this one dove into a number of insurance topics which we hadn’t ever covered before. I really learned a lot from the discussions and hopefully others learned from me.

Plus, in the first session I had the privilege to sit next to Dr. Eric Topol. He’s got such great insights into what’s happening in healthcare. Of course, I’m also always amazed by Mandi Bishop, who many of you may know from Twitter or her Eyes Wide Shut series here on EMR and HIPAA.

In case you missed the live stream of the event, you can find each of the three recorded sessions below. I also posted the 3 drawings that were created during the event on EMR and EHR. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what was shared. Thanks Dell for hosting the conversation that brought together so many perspectives from across healthcare.

Session 1: Consumer Engagement & Social Media

Session 2: Bridging the Gap Between Providers, Payers and Patients

Session 3: Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Future Of…Patient Engagement

Posted on March 19, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

Healthcare has a major challenge when it comes to the term “Patient Engagement.” $36 billion of government money and something called meaningful use has corrupted the word Patient Engagement. While meaningful use requires “5% patient engagement”, that’s a far cry from actually engaging with patients. Anyone that’s attested to meaningful use knows what I mean.

As we move past meaningful use, what then will patient engagement actually look like?

When I start to think about the future of patient engagement, I’m taken back to my experience with a new primary care provider that’s trying to Restore Humanity to Healthcare (see Restore Humanity to Healthcare part 2 as well). In this case, I’m exploring the idea of unlimited primary care along with a primary care team that includes a doctor, but also includes a wellness coordinator that’s interested in my wellness and not just my presenting problem.

Once you take the payment portion out of primary care, it dramatically changes the equation for me. Gone are the fears of going to the doctor because you don’t want to pay the co-pay. Gone are the days where a doctor needs to see you in the office in order to be able to make money from the visit. With unlimited primary care, an email, phone call or text message that solves the problem is a great solution for the doctor and the patient.

Of course, this model of primary care is only one example of the shift that’s going to drive us to patient engagement. ACOs and value based care models are going to require a much deeper relationship between doctors and patients. Trust me that 5% patient engagement through an online portal isn’t going to be enough in these new models.

Plus, these new models are going to really convert our current sick care system into a true healthcare system. I like to call this new model “Treating Healthy Patients.” Quite frankly we’re not ready for this change right now, but in the future we’ll have to adapt. The biggest change is going to be in how we define “patient” and “healthy.”

The wave of connected medical devices and innovation are going to completely reframe how we look at health. Instead of describing ourselves as healthy, the data will tell us that we’re all sick. We’re just at different points in the continuum of sickness.

In the future, patient engagement will be the key to treating each of us individually. The symptoms will change from coughing and vomiting to 85% risk for diabetes and 76% risk for a heart attack. We thought we had patient compliance issues when someone is coughing and vomiting (ie. something they want to fix). Now imagine patient compliance challenges when the patient isn’t feeling any pain, but they need to change something in order to avoid some major health problem.

I think this describes perfectly why we’re entering one of the most challenging times in healthcare. It’s a dramatic shift in how we think about healthcare and has a new set of more challenging problems that we’ve never solved. One of the keys to solving these new challenges is patient engagement.

The Future Of…Healthcare Innovation

Posted on March 17, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

Innovation is a fascinating concept. Historians and philosophers have been thinking and investigating the key to innovation forever. I’m not sure anyone has ever found the true secret sauce to innovation. Every innovation I’ve ever seen has been a mix of timing, luck, and hard work.

Some times the timing is not right for a product and therefore it fails. The product might have been great, but the timing wasn’t right for it to be rolled out. Innovation always requires a little luck. Maybe it was the chance meeting with an investor that helps take and idea to the next level. Maybe it’s the luck of getting the right exposure that catapults your idea into a business. Maybe it’s the luck of the right initial end users which shape the direction of the product. Every innovation has also required hard work. In fact, the key to ensuring you’re ready for luck to be heaped upon you or to test if your timing is right is to put in the work.

The great thing is that it’s a brilliant time to be working on innovations in healthcare. We’re currently at the beginning of a confluence of healthcare innovations. Each one on its own might seem like a rather small innovation, but taken together they’re going to provide amazing healthcare innovations that shape the future of healthcare as we know it.

Let me give a few examples of the wave of innovations that are happening. Health sensors are exploding. Are ability to know in real time how well our body is performing is off the charts. There are sensors out there for just about every measurable aspect of the human body. The next innovation will be to take all this sensor data and collapse it down into appropriate communication and actions.

Another example, is the innovations in genomic medicine. The cost and speed required to map your genome is collapsing faster than Moore’s law. All of that genomic data is going to be available to innovators who want to build something on top of it.

3D printing is progressing at light speed. Don’t think this applies to healthcare? Check out this 3D printed prosthetic hand or this 3D printed heart. If you really want your mind blown, check out people’s work to provide blood to 3D printed organs.

If you think we’ve gotten value out of healthcare data, you’re kidding yourself. There are so many innovations in healthcare data that are sitting there waiting in healthcare data hoards. We just need to tap into that data and start sharing those findings with a connected healthcare system.

The mobile device is an incredible innovation just waiting for healthcare. We are all essentially walking around with a computer in our pocket now. We’ve already started to see the innovations this will provide healthcare, but it’s only just the beginning. This computer in our pocket will become the brain and communication hub for our healthcare needs.

I’m sure you can think of other innovations that I haven’t mentioned including robotics, health literacy, healthcare gaming, etc. What’s most exciting to me about the future of healthcare innovation is that each of these innovations will combine into a unforeseen innovation. The most powerful innovations in healthcare will not be a single innovative idea. Instead, it will come from someone who combines multiple innovations into one beautiful package.

The most exciting part of innovation is that it’s usually unexpected and surprising. I love surprises. What do you see as the future building blocks of innovation in healthcare?

6th Annual New Media Meetup at HIMSS 2015 Sponsored by Stericycle

Posted on March 16, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For those of you planning to attend the HIMSS 2015 conference in Chicago, I’m excited to share the details of the 6th Annual New Media Meetup at HIMSS. For those who’ve missed the last 5 events, it’s the premiere coming together of healthcare IT bloggers, tweeters, and other social media influencers at the mecca of Healthcare IT conferences.

We’ve secured a great venue for the event that’s a perfect match for Chicago and social media. We know that many of you will be looking to satisfy your need for deep dish pizza while in Chicago and so we’re happy to solve that problem for you. Plus, along with some great food and drinks, we know you’ll love connecting and taking selfies with all the healthcare IT social media rockstars that will be in attendance.

A sincere thanks to Stericycle and one of their products, Patient Prompt, for sponsoring the New Media Meeetup and making it possible for those of us in New Media to enjoy a wonderful evening of food and drink together at HIMSS. I hope everyone will check out Stericycle and thank them for sponsoring the event.

Also, those interested in this event will want to check out the full scale Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference that we’re hosting in Las Vegas May 7-8, 2015. It’s a special 2 days devoted to health IT marketing and PR professionals.

Now for the details of the New Media Meetup at HIMSS 2015:

Register Here!

When: Tuesday 4/14 6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Gino’s East – 162 E Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611 MAP
Who: Anyone who uses or is interested in New Media (Blogs, Twitter, Social Media, etc)
What: Food, Drinks, and Amazing People

Note: We have limited space for the event and so like in past years, we’ll have to close registration once we reach capacity.

Sponsored by Stericycle
Stericycle-1ColorSmall_2015
Stericycle help hospitals and providers acquire and retain patients through outsourced contact center services.

Our focus includes expanding patient access with one call resolution 24/7, identifying providers, scheduling appointments and helping consumers and patients to stay engaged in the health system while also meeting revenue objectives.

We also specialize in patient satisfaction and care compliance, including follow-up solutions after receiving care from physician, hospital, ED or other service provider. Learn more at www.stericyclecommunications.com

Sponsored by Patient Prompt
Patient Prompt
PatientPrompt is a cloud-based communications platform that delivers messages via email, voice and text. Through direct, real-time synchronization with over 100 EHR and Practice Management Systems, the platform can construct highly customized notifications based on the system data, a patient’s preferences and an organization’s needs. Learn more at patientprompt.com

A really big thank you also goes out to all the members of Influential Networks and Healthcare Scene that help promote the New Media Meetup. This event was originally brought together through social media and still today is organized using social media.

Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago very soon!

The Future Of…Healthcare Security

Posted on March 13, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

Security is on the top of mind of most healthcare boards. I think the instruction from these boards to CIOs is simple: Keep Us Out of the News!

That’s an order that’s much easier said than done. If Google and Anthem can’t stay out of the news because of a breach, then a hospital or doctor’s office is fighting an uphill battle. Still don’t believe me, check out this visualization of internet attacks. It’s pretty scary stuff.

The reality is that you don’t really win a security battle. You can just defend against attacks as well as possible with the limited resources you have available. What is clear is that while still limited, healthcare will be investing more resources in security and privacy than they’ve ever done before.

The future of effective security in healthcare is going to be organizations who bake security into everything they do. Instead of hiring a chief security officer that worries about and advocates for security, we need a culture of security in healthcare organizations. This starts at the top where the leader is always asking about how we’re addressing security. That leadership will then trickle down into the culture of a company.

Let’s also be clear that security doesn’t have to be at odds with innovation and technology. In fact, technology can take our approach to security and privacy to the next level. Tell me how you knew who read the chart in a paper chart world? Oh yes, that sign out sheet that people always forgot to sign. Oh wait, the fingerprints on the chart were checked. It’s almost ludicrous to think about. Let’s be real. In the paper chart world we put in processes to try to avoid the wrong people getting their hands on the chart, but we really had no idea who saw it. The opposite is true in an EHR world. We know exactly who saw what and who changed what and when and where (Note: Some EHR are better than others at this, but a few lawsuits will get them all up to par on it).

The reality is that technology can take security and privacy to another level that we could have never dreamed. We can implement granular access controls that are hard and fast and monitored and audited. That’s a powerful part of the future of security and privacy in healthcare. Remember that many of the healthcare breaches come from people who have a username and password and not from some outside hacker.

A culture of security and privacy embraces the ability to track when and what happens to every piece of PHI in their organization. Plus, this culture has to be built into the procurement process, the implementation process, the training process, etc. Gone are the days of the chief security officer scapegoat. Technology is going to show very clearly who is responsible.

While I’ve described a rosy future built around a culture of privacy and security, I’m not naive. The future of healthcare security also includes a large number of organizations who continue to live a security life of “ignorance is bliss.” These people will pay lip service to privacy and security, but won’t actually address the culture change that’s needed to address privacy and security. They’ll continue the “Just Enough Culture of HIPAA Compliance.”

In the future we’ll have to be careful to not include one organization’s ignorance in a broad description of healthcare in general. A great example of this can be learned from the Sutter Health breach. In this incident, Sutter Health CPMC found the breach during a proactive audit of their EHR. Here’s the lesson learned from that breach:

The other lesson we need to take from this HIPAA breach notification is that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge an organization that proactively discovers a breach. If we’re too punitive with healthcare organizations that find and effectively address a breach like this, then organizations will stop finding and reporting these issues. We should want healthcare organizations that have a culture and privacy and security. Part of that culture is that they’re going to sometimes catch bad actors which they need to correct.

Healthcare IT software like EHRs have a great ability to track everything that’s done and they’re only going to get better at doing it. That’s a good thing and healthcare information security and privacy will benefit from it. We should encourage rather than ridicule organizations like CPMC for their proactive efforts to take care of the privacy of their patients’ information. I hope we see more organizations like Sutter Health who take a proactive approach to the security and privacy of healthcare information.

In fact the title of the blog post linked above is a warning for the future of healthcare IT: “Will Hospitals Be At Risk for HIPAA Audits If They Don’t Have HIPAA Violations?”

Security and privacy will be part of the fabric of everything we do in healthcare IT. We can’t ignore them. In order for patients to trust these healthcare apps, security will have to be a feature. Those in healthcare IT that don’t include security as a feature will be on shaky ground.

The Future Of…Healthcare Big Data

Posted on March 12, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

In yesterday’s post about The Future of…The Connected Healthcare System, I talked a lot about healthcare data and the importance of that data. So, I won’t rehash those topics in this post. However, that post will serve as background for why I believe healthcare has no clue about what big data really is and what it will mean for patients.

Healthcare Big Data History
If we take a quick look back in the history of big data in healthcare, most people will think about the massive enterprise data warehouses that hospitals invested in over the years. Sadly, I say they were massive because the cost of the project was massive and not because the amount of data was massive. In most cases it was a significant amount of data, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The other massive part was the massive amount of work that was required to acquire and store the data in a usable format.

This is what most people think about when they think of big data in healthcare. A massive store of a healthcare system’s data that’s been taken from a variety of disparate systems and normalized into one enterprise data warehouse. The next question we should be asking is, “what were the results of this effort?”

The results of this effort is a massive data store of health information. You might say, “Fantastic! Now we can leverage this massive data store to improve patient health, lower costs, improve revenue, and make our healthcare organization great.” That’s a lovely idea, but unfortunately it’s far from the reality of most enterprise data warehouses in healthcare.

The reality is that the only outcome was the enterprise data warehouse. Most project plans didn’t include any sort of guiding framework on how the enterprise data warehouse would be used once it was in place. Most didn’t include budget for someone (let alone a team of people) to mine the data for key organization and patient insights. Nope. Their funding was just to roll out the data warehouse. Organizations therefore got what they paid for.

So many organizations (and there might be a few exceptions out there) thought that by having this new resource at their fingertips, their staff would somehow magically do the work required to find meaning in all that data. It’s a wonderful thought, but we all know that it doesn’t work that way. If you don’t plan and pay for something, it rarely happens.

Focused Data Efforts
Back in 2013, I wrote about a new trend towards what one company called Skinny Data. No doubt that was a reaction to many people’s poor experiences spending massive amounts of money on an enterprise data warehouse without any significant results. Healthcare executives had no doubt grown weary of the “big data” pitch and were shifting to only want to know what results the data could produce.

I believe this was a really healthy shift in the use of data in a healthcare organization. By focusing on the end result, you can do a focused analysis and aggregation of the right data to be able to produce high quality results for an organization. Plus, if done right, that focused analysis and aggregation of data can serve as the basis for other future projects that will use some of the same data.

We’re still deep in the heart of this smart, focused healthcare data experience. The reality is that healthcare can still benefit so much from small slices of data that we don’t need to go after the big data analysis. Talk about low hanging fruit. It’s everywhere in healthcare data.

The Future of Big Data
In the future, big data will matter in healthcare. However, we’re still laying the foundation for that work. Many healthcare organizations are laying a great foundation for using their data. Brick by brick (data slice by data slice if you will), the data is being brought together and will build something amazingly beautiful.

This house analogy is a great one. There are very few people in the world that can build an entire house by themselves. Instead, you need some architects, framers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, painters, designers, gardeners, etc. Each one contributes their expertise to build something that’s amazing. If any one of them is missing, the end result isn’t as great. Imagine a house without a plumber.

The same is true for big data. In most healthcare organizations they’ve only employed the architect and possibly bought some raw materials. However, the real value of leveraging big data in healthcare is going to require dozens of people across an organization to share their expertise and build something that’s amazing. That will require a serious commitment and visionary leadership to achieve.

Plus, we can’t be afraid to share our expertise with other healthcare organizations. Imagine if you had to invent cement every time you built a house. That’s what we’re still doing with big data in healthcare. Every organization that starts digging into their data is having to reinvent things that have already been solved in other organizations.

I believe we’ll solve this problem. Healthcare organizations I know are happy to share their findings. However, we need to make it easy for them to share, easy for other organizations to consume, and provide appropriate compensation (financial and non-financial). This is not an easy problem to solve, but most things worth doing aren’t easy.

The future of big data in healthcare is extraordinary. As of today, we’ve barely scraped the surface. While many may consider this a disappointment, I consider it an amazing opportunity.