Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

The Future Of…Healthcare Big Data

Posted on March 12, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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.

Analytics-Driven Compassionate Healthcare at El Camino Hospital

Posted on March 25, 2013 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a hardcore health data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, which she brings to her role as Dell Health’s Analytics Solutions Lead. She fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

Given its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, it may not be remarkable that El Camino Hospital was the first hospital in the US to implement EMR. What IS remarkable is that El Camino implemented EMR 51 years ago, leveraging an IBM mainframe system that Lockheed Martin refactored for healthcare from its original intended use for the space program.

Take a moment to process that. El Camino didn’t need PPACA, Meaningful Use, HITECH, or HIPAA to tell them health data is critical. El Camino saw the value in investing in healthcare IT for electronic data capture and communication without federal incentive programs or lobbyists. With that kind of track record of visionary leadership, it’s no wonder they became early analytics program adopters, and recently turned to Health Care DataWorks (HCD) as a trusted partner.

When I sat down with executive leadership from El Camino and HCD to discuss the journey up Tom Davenport‘s analytics maturity scale from rudimentary operational reporting to advanced analytics, I expected a familiar story of cost pressure, clinical informatics, quality measure incentives or alternative payment models as the business drivers for new insights development. Instead, I heard the burgeoning plan for a visionary approach to patient engagement and “analytics-driven compassionate care”.

Greg Walton, CIO of El Camino Hospital, admitted that initial efforts to implement an analytics program had resulted in “textbook errors”: “’Competing on Analytics’ was easier to write than execute,” he said. Their early efforts to adopt and conform to a commercially-available data model were hindered by the complexity of the solution and the philosophy of the vendor. “One of the messages I would give to anybody is: do NOT attempt this at home,” Greg laughed, and El Camino decided to change their approach. They sought a “different type of company…a real-life company with applicable lessons learned in this space.”

“The most important thing to remember in this sector: you’re investing in PEOPLE. This is a PEOPLE business,” Greg said. “And that if there’s any aspect of IT that’s the most people-oriented, it’s analytics. You have to triangulate between how much can the organization absorb, and how fast they can absorb it.” In HCD, El Camino found an analytics organization partner whose leadership and resources understand healthcare challenges first, and technology second.

To address El Camino’s need for aggregated data access across multiple operational systems, HCD is implementing their pioneering KnowledgeEdge Enterprise Data Warehouse solution,including its enterprise data model, analytic dashboards, applications and reports. HCD’s technology, implementation process, and culture is rooted in their deep clinical and provider industry expertise.

“The people (at HCD) have all worked in hospitals, and many still work there occasionally. Laypersons do not have the same understanding; HCD’s exposure to the healthcare provider environment and their level of experience provides a differentiator,” Greg explained. HCD impressed with their willingness to roll up their sleeves and work with the hospital stakeholders to address macro and micro program issues, from driving the evaluation and prioritization of analytics projects to identifying the business rules defining discharge destination. And both the programmers and staff are “thrilled,” Greg says: “My programmers are so happy, they think they’ve died and gone to heaven!”

This collaborative approach to adopting analytics as a catalyst for organizational and cultural change has lit a fire to address the plight of the patient using data as a critical tool. Greg expounded upon his vision to achieve what Aggie Haslup, Vice President of Marketing for HCD, termed “analytics-driven compassionate care”:

We need to change the culture about data without losing, and in fact enhancing, our culture around compassion. People get into healthcare because they’re passionate about compassion. Data can help us be more compassionate. US Healthcare Satisfaction scores have been basically flat over the last 10 years. Lots of organizations have tried to adopt other service industry tools: LEAN,6S; none of those address the plight of the patient. We’ve got to learn that we have to go back to our roots of compassion. We need to get back to the patient, which means “one who suffers in pain.” We want (to use data) to help understand more about person who’s suffering. My (recent) revelation: what do you do w/ guests in your house? Clean the house, put away the pets, get food, do everything you can to make guests comfortable. We want to know more about patients’ ethnicity, cultural heritage, the CONTEXT of their lives because when you’re in pain, what do you fall back on? Cultural values. We want a holistic view of the patient, because we can provide better, compassionate care through knowing more about patients. We want to deploy a contextual longitudinal view of the patient…and detect trends in satisfaction with demographics, clinical, medical data.

What a concept. Imagine the possibilities when a progressive healthcare provider teams with an innovative analytics provider to harness the power of data to better serve the patient population. I will definitely keep my eye on this pairing!