How big data is infiltrating healthcare

Better technology leads to more data, which healthcare providers need to be prepared to handle.
Better technology leads to more data, which healthcare providers need to be prepared to handle.
Image: Mareen Fischinger/Corbis
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By Dr. Henry Johnson | Vice President/Medical Director, Midas+ Solutions, A Xerox Company

When I talk to clients about big data and analytics, their concerns and questions basically come down to this: how can their hospitals wade through a sea of information about patients and practices to find the best value?

The challenge–and opportunity–is to take that data and, with the help of analytics, turn it into something actionable that doesn’t just describe a particular situation, but also provides information that can predict an outcome or trend, and give guidance on what to do if certain issues arise. For example, big data could be used to analyze the number of times you’ve visited the doctor over the past year and your symptoms, and then predict when you’re most susceptible to catching the flu so you can take necessary precautions to avoid getting sick.

Solutions are needed now more than ever for healthcare providers to derive value out of the following areas:

  1. Financial/quality data: All tied to value-based purchasing, which holds healthcare providers accountable for both the cost and quality of care they provide. Healthcare providers need to monitor this almost in real time so they can respond quickly to events.
  1. Patient safety: And actionable quality information–not just tied to improving in-patient care and assessing physician performance, but also aimed at goals such as reducing readmission rates with better monitoring of in-home aftercare.
  2. Federal/state requirements and compliance. This includes anticipating trends so that there are no surprises when reporting time rolls around.

Nearly all the major players in the healthcare industry are finally realizing the true power of analyticsas a way to boost the value they provide to patients, while gaining more value from their infrastructure and internal processes.

Innovation will carry the future of healthcare, and data analytics is an integral part of the transformation strategy that will help the healthcare industry reach its number one goal: zero defects. That’s a tough goal to achieve considering factors such as human error and problems with added layers of bureaucracy. But value-driven data analytics can get hospitals closer to that goal by giving providers something to look at (easily accessible information), something to follow (predictive and prescriptive recommendations), and something that is actionable (a plan with measurable results).

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This article was produced by Xerox and not by the Quartz editorial team.