2013
03.20

Healthcare is one industry that seems to be in a constant struggle trying to best figure out how to stay ahead of all that “big data” floating around. Add in the possibility of more data flowing in from the patient, thanks to all these in-home M2M devices, and this task can get out of hand quick.

Interesting stats coming out IDC recently say caregivers (as well as insurers) are focusing on data analytics. A drill down into IDC’s numbers show the top-four capabilities for which healthcare organizations intend to use analytics:

• The ability to identify patients/members in need of care management (cited by 66% of respondents)
• Clinical outcomes (identified by 64%)
• Performance measurement and management (identified by 64%)
• Clinical decision-making at the point of care was (identified by 57%)

A tidbit that I find particularly intriguing from IDC’s numbers is the idea healthcare organizations are beginning to embrace advanced analytics and what they call “new data sources.” These new data sources, according to IDC, come in the form of mobile devices (42% of respondents), social media (32% of respondents) and unstructured clinical data (29% of respondents), all being used to support accountable care.

It all makes me think about the bigger role data is playing in the long-term health scheme these days. Who shares the burden of the responsibility: provider or patient? It is a question we recently posed to Dr. Kamal Jethwani, who is with the Center for Connected Health and Partners Healthcare Instructor in Dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

In his opinion, the future of healthcare requires active collaboration between patients and caregivers, in order to be able to address the challenges of growing healthcare needs, as well as a growing gap in demand and supply of clinicians. He points to a collaborative model where patients become the primary collectors and owners of their data, which will require information systems to adapt rapidly.

He says, “Specifically, data collection will now require decentralization, away from hospitals and clinical care settings, to the patients’ homes. In this, connected devices that allow for automatic and passive data collection from patients will be the norm. The question then, is whether devices produced today are ready for primetime, and what broad changes are needed to make these acceptable by all.”

But Dr. Jethwani also points out the fallbacks to such a model, citing frequent criticisms for collecting high volumes of data from home as data quality, data overload, and liability. And he makes great points to each:

Data Quality
“Clinicians worry that without knowing the context in which this data is collected, their ability to make decisions based on this data is limited. With devices today being able to transmit more than just a single data point, contextual points, like time and day of data collection, geographic location, and relationship to other activities like running or eating a meal, make this data more powerful than anything we currently use in healthcare. Effectively using the technology available to us can allay these fears fairly easily. “

Data Overload
“… can be managed fairly easily using data analytics and decision algorithms. Although these would need robust validation, they can allow a large amount of data to be reduced to a very small number of decision points for clinicians. Also, segmenting clinicians, and allowing nurses and educators to intervene before passing all the data to physicians may be another solution to this problem.”

Liability
“When setting up a program, one should think about whether any time-sensitive data is being collected, and who is available to respond to it. For example, in heart failure, a change in weight may be very time sensitive and may need clinical decisions within a few hours, which is not true with slight increases in blood sugar or blood pressure in younger patients.”

So as we move towards this model of shared responsibility between provider and patient with M2M devices allowing patients to take greater control of their health, it seems data analytics on the part of the provider will perhaps be more important than ever.

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