Big Data analytics is something health IT professionals talk a lot about, but it is rare to see a provider actually making use of it. A recent survey conducted by the eHealth Initiative and CHIME showed that providers recognize tremendous potential in the concept of making use of the vast quantities of data being produced by the growing reliance on electronic health records, but deep utilization of Big Data remains elusive.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) announced an agreement with IBM to manage and make use of its data, which suggests the health care wisdom locked inside Big Data might be getting a bit less elusive.
The partnership will cost UPMC $120 million over four years, to build a virtualized, consolidated IT infrastructure and a private cloud for storing data and applications. Officials said in a press release that the new, more flexible, scalable infrastructure will allow UPMC to make more efficient use of its of its data in the years ahead through improved analytics capabilities. This will be important, because the UPMC expects the demand for usable data to continue growing at a rapid rate.
UPMC’s pursuit of data analytics stands in contrast to what’s happening in much of the rest of the health care industry. The eHealth Initiative and CHIME survey results indicated only 3% of hospitals currently have predictive analytic programs. This is despite the fact that the overwhelming majority said this kind of functionality will be important to improving care quality and efficiency.
There’s no doubt that implementing Big Data analytics is a complex, challenging undertaking. But the initiatives at UPMC indicate that it is possible for health care providers to get there. It may take some investment, both in terms of capital and human resources, but the benefits that come from crunching all that data may be closer to within reach than many health IT professionals realize.