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Big Data!!! Big Questions???

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I read with great interest this morning Michael Malone’s article called “The Big-Data Future Has Arrived” which appeared in this morning’s Wall Street Journal Opinion Page. While very compelling and well-written two things really struck me. First, while Big-Data has seen its biggest inroads in commercial markets to date, healthcare will be impacted in ways that 5 years ago we would have never imagined. From the Genome project, to drug clinical trials, to disease management, to population health, the world we grew up in is about to change at a speed that’s liable to be breathtaking. All this is happening in an industry very quick to accept clinical advances but reluctant or even reticent to accept process or workflow changes. And while we’re beginning to see changes in the care delivery systems we all know, can or will they adapt to change at the rate required to support the movement to a consumer based healthcare system.

More importantly and as Michael points out in his article, big data will force questions on us that we really have no answers for today. Who owns our personal healthcare data? Today our data is scattered across our care delivery teams in their silos with our access being web portals for each member. Right now there is little or no aggregation of that data for our ease of use. As Malone suggests the very design of our healthcare Eco-system may indeed call for a “Bill of Data Rights” in order to resolve the issue. The problem is that care delivery wants to own their segment of the data to insure proper re-reimbursement for the services they render. With the government pushing us toward value based purchasing and re-reimbursements being subject to hold backs due to quality, the problem is getting more convoluted. We’ve reached an inflection point where the fundamental design of our systems has to catch-up with the reality of how fast our data needs are expanding.

The good news in all this is that our care delivery systems for the most part do a great job of collecting information so we do not have to start from ground zero. The power of big data however is the disbursement of that data/ metadata to the point where it will do the most good. And while we’re not there yet, this industry will solve the problem and in doing so discover solutions to needs we never imagined.

Most of us will be at HIMSS next week in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to connecting with both colleagues (Booth4443) and company’s that will help move us forward.