It seems like healthcare big data is the topic du jour lately. Everyone seems interested in how they can tap into the big data in healthcare. I’m not sure what’s caused the flood of healthcare big data people. I expect that some of it comes from the rush of EHR implementations that have happened thanks in large part to the EHR incentive money. I imagine there’s a whole group of hospital CIO’s that are wondering how they can leverage all of that EHR data to benefit their institution and patients.
I think it’s great that healthcare has finally seemed to realize that there’s a lot of value found in healthcare data. The problem is that in every other industry, what we call healthcare big data isn’t very big data at all. In fact, most other industries would describe most of the healthcare data efforts as pretty simple business intelligence. Yes, there are pockets of exceptions, but most of the data initiatives I’ve seen in healthcare don’t even approach the true meaning of the words big data.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this. In fact, I loved when I met with Encore Health Resources and they embraced the idea of “skinny” healthcare data. Maybe it was a way for them to market their product a little different, but regardless of their intent they’re right that we’re still working on skinny data in healthcare. I’d much rather see a bunch of meaningful skinny data projects than a true healthcare big data project that had no results.
Plus, I think this highlights the extraordinary opportunity that’s available to healthcare when it comes to data. If all we’re doing with healthcare data is BI, then that means there is still a wide open ocean of opportunity available for true big data efforts.
I think the biggest challenges we face is around data standards and data liquidity. Related to data standards is the quality of the data, but a standard can often help improve the data quality. Plus, the standard can help to make the data more liquid as well.
Yes, I’m sure the healthcare privacy experts are ready to raise the red flag of privacy when I talk about healthcare data liquidity. However, data liquidity and privacy can both be accomplished. Just give it time and wait for the healthcare data revolution to happen.