Health Care Providers Shouldn’t Wait for Big Data: Physicians

Should health care embrace Big Data?

The conventional wisdom dictates that data analytics can make patient care more efficient. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan recently predicted that hospitals and other healthcare centers in the United States would adopt advanced data analytics in significant numbers over the next five years, despite only 10 percent of hospitals using such platforms in 2011.

In an abstract way, it makes total sense: applying analytics to electronic health records (EHRs) and administrative information could help administrators and doctors make more informed decisions and refine patient care. That’s in theory, at least, and it seems to be driving a lot of data-related developments in the health care sphere of late.

According to two physicians writing on The Health Care Blog, though, hospitals shouldn’t hold out for the promise of Big Data in health care. Instead of investing in a massive platform that could deliver actionable insights after a few years’ worth of development, doctors should look to any and all data close at hand.

“What we’re recommending is that physician groups take stock of their existing sources of data and information,” Dr. Vince Kuraitis, a health-care consultant, and Dr. David Kibbe, a senior advisor to the American Academy of Family Physicians, wrote in the August. 29 posting.

In addition, they added, those physician groups should “look for ways to inexpensively extend the value of their current EHR investments for analytical resources, and learn from the literature and their peers about what relatively low tech, high touch, data-driven interventions have been successful in care management.”

The two refer to this emphasis on current resources as “Small Data.” Establishing registries for high-risk patients and specific conditions is a big part of this; data includes “problem lists, current medications and dosages, allergies, recent laboratory test results, allergies, and surgical procedures.” The viability of said data relies heavily on being inputted into the electronic-health records system in a “reliable and consistent” manner.

Provided that reliable inputting takes place, they added, “it is becoming easier and less costly to extract these data from the EHR’s database and aggregate them in a registry or small clinical data repository for analysis.” The two recommended partnering with health-plan providers (“payers”), which can provide a physician group with tons of data gathered over the course of several years. However, “today’s reality is that most of these partnerships are with larger physicians groups—it’s simply more efficient for a health plan to deal with one group of 100 physicians than 10 groups of 10 physicians.”

In other words, they conclude, don’t wait for Big Data platforms to saturate the health care landscape in coming years: start now with leveraging smaller data.


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