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HP Software's community for IT leaders // July 2013
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Healthcare learns the value of a big data IQ

Mastering big data is about more than technology—it’s about a new focus on information, a new intelligence about intelligence that will dramatically change business outcomes.

By Ken Perez

Ken Perez is senior vice president of marketing and director of healthcare policy for MedeAnalytics Inc., which provides big data mastery in one of the most information-heavy fields, healthcare. For Discover Performance, he addresses the ways in which the healthcare industry provides a vivid example of the challenges and possibilities of cutting-edge analytics.

Although big data promises to change almost any industry, the data-intensive, highly regulated healthcare industry is a prime example of the challenges and possibilities the next generation of analytics brings. For healthcare, big data is only going to get bigger with the growth of clinically integrated networks, accountable care organizations, and population health management.

Healthcare has a well-deserved reputation for being a laggard in information technology adoption, but it is becoming a bellwether for other industries, as we seem to be entering a new era of accountability in which insights gleaned from big data are used to help society tackle salient, complex, cross-organizational problems.

MedeAnalytics used HP Vertica to deliver better performance across the healthcare system, quickly drawing information from vast, siloed data collections to improve financial, operational, and clinical outcomes. In many ways, what our industry is doing today will quickly become the norm for leaders across industries. The challenges are not just a matter of adding a new technology, but of developing a new kind of intelligence regarding how we approach data.

Healthcare’s challenge

The healthcare system is a mammoth and growing part of our society. It faces enormous pressures to improve, and, consequently, it is being changed, profoundly and fundamentally. 

Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton observes, “Healthcare costs have become the biggest problem that companies have—or cities, counties, states, and the federal government. Nobody can afford healthcare.”1 Befitting the enormity of the problem, Steven Brill’s TIME magazine 42,000-word cover article, “Bitter Pill,” is the longest in the history of the publication. Brill notes that the United States will likely spend $2.8 trillion on healthcare this year—more than the next 10 countries combined and roughly 18 percent of our GDP.2 This year, our society will spend about $9,000 on healthcare for every person, two to three times more than any other industrialized nation. And healthcare costs are projected to continue outpacing GDP for years to come.

Unfortunately, as Brill points out, in spite of all this spending, “in every measurable way, the results our healthcare system produces are no better and often worse” than the outcomes in other developed countries.3

Along with the high cost of healthcare and the unexplained variances in quality, we have the many changes driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, which includes a series of healthcare delivery reforms aimed at shifting from our current predominant fee-for-service model—which generally rewards volume—to what some have termed “fee-for-value,” applying performance metrics and economic carrots and sticks to reward improved quality and/or reduced cost. Value-based purchasing and accountable care organizations are two leading examples of such delivery reforms, and they employ complex performance measurement and payment models that require robust big data analytics. 

Big data for a big challenge

The growth in metrics and the need to aggregate and analyze data from multiple, disparate sources from both healthcare providers and payers (e.g., health plans) have created tremendous demand for healthcare analytics. For health plans, we have millions of covered lives in our system, with some 250 fields of claim and membership data for each member, so we’re dealing with many terabytes of data and some really complex analytical queries. Since 2011, MedeAnalytics has used HP Vertica to significantly boost the performance of our data analytics for many of our largest customers, both health plans and providers. In general, we’ve seen a 15x performance improvement.

As one example of big data analytics, a large health plan is able to understand the overall composite risk of its population and predict how it will change. This helps the health plan project costs and make decisions regarding investments in preventive medicine and wellness programs, ultimately saving lives and reducing costs. In short, MedeAnalytics is in the business of helping its clients embark on the journey to become analytics-driven organizations.

The healthcare industry is learning how to use—not just accumulate—big data, sharing data across silos, gleaning strategic insights, and managing the flow of information responsibly and securely. This is a journey all businesses will need to pursue to remain competitive and leading-edge.

A new intelligence

In 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term “emotional intelligence.” A few years later, New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman, building on Salovey and Mayer’s work, wrote a book, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman contended that it was not cognitive intelligence that guaranteed business success but emotional intelligence.

Today, another area of aptitude is emerging as critical for business success. I call it “big data intelligence.” Executives need to stand on the solid ground of facts rather than hunches, and they need insight into the future, not just an understanding of the past. Executives need to accept the inexorable growth of the three Vs of data—volume, velocity, and variety—and understand how to leverage big data for competitive advantage. And if healthcare is any guide, the big data intelligence imperative is not just for the CIO: it will apply—admittedly to varying degrees—to every functional area of an enterprise, so it’s a prescription for CxO career advancement.

With a dozen years of big data experience, MedeAnalytics serves more than 850 customers in the United States and the UK with web-based data analytics to help improve financial, operational, and clinical outcomes. For more on how industry leaders are tackling advanced analytics, see videos and more from the HP Vertica Big Data Conference.
 


References:

1. Jennifer Robison, “Healthcare Is Killing Us,” Gallup Business Journal, May 2012.

2. Steven Brill, “Bitter Pill,” Time, March 4, 2013, p. 20.

3. Ibid.


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