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Jul 8 2013   12:18PM GMT

Big data analytics drive population health management



Posted by: EmilyHuizenga
Big data, Data analytics, population health management

dan riskin

Interview with Daniel Riskin, M.D., cofounder and CEO, Health Fidelity

The next few years will determine the future role of big data analytics in population management and in healthcare as a whole. In this interview with Daniel Riskin, M.D., cofounder and CEO of Health Fidelity, which develops products for healthcare analytics, healthcare services, and medical device technology, learn more about meeting those data challenges and their impact on healthcare improvement.

What are the biggest challenges in utilizing clinical data analytics and big data now, and in the near future? How can they be overcome?

Daniel Riskin: The biggest challenge is the lack of infrastructure throughout healthcare. In every other industry, there is such clean infrastructure that you can instantly and inexpensively turn on or off a product or service.In healthcare, it’s a 6 month effort, massively expensive, and once you’ve tested a product, you’re almost committed to a product once you’ve tested it. The  lack of infrastructure limits innovation and the ability for practitioners to work in a clean market.

I challenge your readers to consider whose responsibility it is to address the infrastructure problem. The ability to rapidly turn on and off and switch systems is key. Should practitioners be pushing the vendors, or should they be doing it themselves? Examples of systems that have been able to switch to a rational infrastructure include an EHR from a data warehouse from like applications running on the data warehouse, where they can be rapidly switched. And I’m going to stand on my soap box saying that cloud based is crucial. An example of a poor infrastructure is one that is fully integrated, built from ground up, and locally hosted where no component can be changed.

What about utilizing big data for population health management? Are we there yet? Any providers whom others should be looking to emulate?

Riskin: Big data influencing outcomes  is a new movement in this decade.  There are health systems that are using small data to improve care,  such as discreet data from an EHR and manually created registries. But the number that are using or attempting to use big data is  small.

In 2013, this is mostly research. But, the power and potential is so great.  There is huge interest and experimentation going on today, and the prediction is that over the next couple of years, the leading health systems will be able to use their robust infrastructure to implement big data to improve care. But again, this circles back to the big systems having a robust infrastructure.Those that don’t — meaning the data poor of the world — will be at a disadvantage.

What are the best practices for systems looking to capitalize on big data utilization, EHR integration and enterprise analytics strategy?

Riskin: Unless you’re willing to commit to infrastructure, don’t bother. But if you committed to infrastructure — EHR, data warehousing, normalized data, cloud based systems, thin applications — then it’s rational to experiment with new apps and workflows.  Experimenting in those areas is rational because they are inexpensive. But if everything is local,, expensive and a big commitment, then the best you can hope for is to stay above water on the mandates and initiatives. Very large hospitals with huge amounts of money to throw at their problems are the exceptions. But, if they just put Band-Aids on the problem, instead of addressing real infrastructure change, then they will fall behind.

The goal of the country and the best systems is to improve care with data.The last few years have seen a transition in the industry, bringing us closer to achieving that goal. Healthcare is an opportunity for us to influence the lives of others. The gap between healthcare IT and data revolutionizing care  is large, but we do have the right people to overcome it.

Large companies — and several smaller ones — are committed to an open, modular cloud-based approach. At Health Fidelity, we’re working to provide the next generation of technologies.

We’ll need demand from customers for innovative, light solutions, or changes at the federal level — changing initiatives and mandates — to influence larger companies. Changing the demand from customers will happen slowly.

Health Fidelity engages in both, regularly working in Washington, D.C.  with the large health systems to support infrastructure change. There are many other firms holding the flag who are trying very hard to envision and create a better future.

Where will healthcare be in five years and what can we learn from other industries?

Riskin: The next two years are the tipping point. Decisions made now will define where we’ll be in five years. If the decision is to commit to the EHR as  the sole application to address data input, workflow, analytics, and limit our interoperability pools, then we’ll be in the same similar place we are now. But, if the focus is toward a more rational, thin, rapid infrastructure, then we’ll see experiments throughout the nation and rapid tests supporting new business models, and then we have an opportunity for a rapidly evolving change in healthcare, which we have seen in other industries the past decade.

What’s the best advice for practitioners?

Riskin: Have heart. I’m a patient, too. So if they focus on the big prize — which is better, more efficient care — then we will all win. Many of us are doing our parts, and patients are at the center. We are relying on them to create the next phase of data driven healthcare.

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