Buzz Word Bonanza (Part 1)

Nov 18, 2013 | Blog

Boston, MA—November 19, 2013—The topic of healthcare analytics and business intelligence is on most healthcare organization’s agenda as a key initiative within the next several years.  This current and anticipated need has given rise to many vendor, consulting, and technology companies offering solutions to assist healthcare organizations in their efforts.  This has also introduced a number of buzz words and terms that I find interesting and somewhat misleading.  One in particular is Big Data.

I am not really sure what Big Data is supposed to mean for the typical healthcare organization.  I envision some spreadsheet blown up to 36 point font pasted to a wall in someone’s cubicle!  Seriously, let’s start with small data.

Relative to what financial and retail businesses deal with, useful healthcare data, for many providers and insurers, is relatively small, and until genomics comes into play along with accurately unlocking unstructured data, can be handled effectively with relatively low cost technologies and processes.  What is “big” is the opportunity to analyze data more effectively.  We are just beginning to mine the value of electronic medical record data combined with administrative/claims data, and much can be done to help organizations improve their performance.  Once understood and extracted from their transaction systems, these data sources, which are not that overwhelming, can be put into usable formats for analysis.  Big Data is a fun term to throw around though, because bigger is always better, right?

Whether you have big data, small data, or just lots of data, the healthcare marketplace is sorting out how to approach meeting their analytic needs and what the most important short term and long term solutions are.  There is also the factor of money, meaning how much can they spend and how much value will they get in return for their investment in analytics and business intelligence?

My response to this question has been pretty straightforward:  start with the data and information you already have, use low cost technology tools that are readily available, and engage solutions that focus on how to effectively use the data for specific clinical and business needs, and build from there.  Most healthcare organizations are too busy and too resource constrained to do all this work themselves, and can sometimes focus on solutions that are too broad to be practical and affordable.   Pick something that you can afford, brings immediate value, and can grow along with your needs.