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The Confusion Over Big Data


One of the many things that attracted me to G2 Works was trying to help make sense out the difference between what IBM’s “Watson” represents and the world we currently live in from a healthcare perspective. We’ve all seen the commercials on television with Watson speaking with Dylan about his lyrics, Ken Jennings about the game show questions and answers. And while entertaining, what are we aiming this incredible tool towards???

The healthcare industry produces massive amounts of data every minute of every hour of every day. The information systems we’ve developed do a wonderful job of aggregating information on patients and procedures regardless of venue. The rub is how to convert all of this data to actionable information that enhances and facilitates a better patient experience. As I’ve said before, these systems were designed around care delivery not around the patient’s experience.

Does that mean we need to rip and replace???

Not only NO, but heck no!!!

While Watson represents one tool, we need to follow what other industries have done when faced with the dilemma of having actionable data at the point of the action. In an interview of Hilary Mason CEO of Fast Forward Labs, and Andreas Weigend former Chief Scientist of, I found several concepts that I think are important in our quest to eliminate the confusion.

The first concept is that of data democratization. Yes I know, I have a hard time saying “democratization” too!!! We in healthcare think of this data as a liability not an asset because of all the negative things that can happen to us if somehow the data is hacked, lost, or viewed by someone not entitled to view the data. We’ve seen plenty examples of these things happening over the years. If we continue to stay defensive on this issue, our ability to move quickly to change or modify what’s not working in making that patient experience better will be hindered.

Most processes we put patients through in healthcare are not tailored to be expedient. They’re tailored to not make a mistake even though we all know that mistakes will still be made and the experience of the patient still is less than what it should be. Case in point. This morning because I’m old (er), I have to arrange for a test that I don’t want to do but my physician say’s it has been too long between procedures. Okay, I get it. The paperwork that was required just to ask a few questions was atrocious. Thank God they let me download it and fill it out at home. That said, having to read through 17 pages of questions that they already had answers to because the specialist I was referred to had just acquired the very practice where all previous procedures had taken place is not the experience I was hoping for. My previous specialist retired, so apparently all the data he had collected over the last 10 years is now obsolete. It’s happened to all of us and yet we still put up with it. It won’t stop until all of this data becomes ours that we’ll have the symmetry required to make the experience better. Right now we’re playing cards with a stacked deck not in our favor.

The second concept that I believe get’s lost, and adds to the confusion, is that all of this data is a tool for enhancing “Human” intuition. The minute we allow machines to make decisions we invite Arnold’s “Terminator” character a seat at the table. Most of the professionals we deal with in healthcare got there because they were both educated and experienced. They see things every day that go into that bank of experience that they draw from when necessary. Data for them reinforces those intuitions as well as can point out thing that were too small for our human radar to see. While the power of computing continues to advance at startling rates, the purpose of that power has to be built around us ordinary folks.

This is what keeps me up at night. How do we at G2 Works make the confusion and fog around Big Data and Analytics disappear??? How can we simplify and speed up the creation and adoption of applications that make the patient experience a better one??? It all starts with a group of like-minded people coming together and waking up every morning with the expressed purpose of solving this problem. I know we’re not the only ones working on this problem.

Our dream is to be an organization that is ever mindful that we must continue to innovate to assist our cumbersome, hard to navigate healthcare system to become the smooth flowing patient centered system it must become.

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