BIG DATA in Healthcare? Not quite yet…

AtlasLet’s be honest with ourselves. First –

“who thinks the healthcare industry is ready for Big Data?”

Me either…

Ok, second question,

“who thinks providers can tackle Big Data on their own without the help of healthcare IT consulting firms?”

Better yet,

“can your organization?”

Big data” seems to be yet another catch phrase that has caught many in healthcare by surprise. They’re surprised for the same reason I am which was recently summed up for me by a VP of Enterprise Informatics at a 10 hospital health system – “how can we be talking about managing big data when very few [providers] embrace true enterprise information management principles and can’t even manage to implement tools like enterprise data warehouses for our existing data?” Most people in healthcare who have come from telecommunications, banking, retail, and other industries that embraced Big Data long ago agree the industry still has a long way to go. In addition vendors like Informatica who have a proven track record of helping industries manage Big Data with their technology solutions, still have yet to see significant traction with their tools in healthcare. There are plenty of other things that need to be done first before the benefits of managing Big Data come to fruition.

Have we been here before? Didn’t we previously think that EMR’s were somehow going to transform the industry and “make everything simpler” to document, report from, and analyze? Yes we now know that isn’t the case, but it should be noted that EMR’s will eventually help with these initiatives IF providers have an enterprise data strategy and infrastructure in place to integrate EMR data with all the other data that litters their information landscape AND they have the right people to leverage enterprise data.

Same can be said of Big Data. It should be relatively easy for providers to develop a technical foundation that can store and manage Big Data compared to the time and effort needed to leverage and capitalize on Big Data once you have it. For the significant majority of the industry the focus right now should be on realizing returns in the form of lower costs and improved quality from integrating small samples of data across applications, workflows, care settings, and entities. The number of opportunities for improvement in the existing data landscape with demonstrable value should be top priority to mobilize stakeholders to action. Big Data will have to wait…for now.

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