Chief information officers (CIOs) and senior IT executives of major U.S. healthcare systems say that they are putting big data analytics first before all other health IT concerns.
After years of federally-mandated EHR rollouts that digitized health data, it’s now time to make sense of it all. The focus on data analytics as the centerpiece of health IT initiatives in the United States has been slow in coming, but that may not last much longer. This was confirmed in a recent survey of nearly 70 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME)—chief information officers (CIO) and senior health IT leaders—who said that they are making analytics their top priority.
According to the Health Catalyst survey, 54% of CHIME members said they are putting data analytics first. This is followed by population health initiatives (42%), ICD-10 implementation (30%), accountable care/shared risk initiatives (29%), and consolidation-related investments (11%). More than 90% of respondents believe that analytics will be either “extremely important” or “very important” in the next three years.
“CHIME members serve in the front lines of a healthcare industry confronted by the most significant challenges in its history, and their focus on analytics as a key solution to those challenges is confirmation of the technology’s importance,” Health Catalyst CEO Dan Burton, said in a statement. “In fact, analytics is a prerequisite for all of the major initiatives currently underway to address value-based care. Once organizations have all of their data warehoused and accessible, analytics is the core tool to help them make sense of the data and put it to work.”
Lack of Resources a Big Challenge
Making it work may be tougher than expected—since nearly 60% of respondents said that lack of expertise and/or resources related to analytics will be the main hindrance to any data analytics project. More than 50% said that other competing health IT initiatives are obstacles, too.
Challenges abound, but so do opportunities. The global healthcare analytics market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 22% over the next 4 years, according to Report Linker. At this rate, it’s possible that the market could be worth more than $10 billion by 2018, from $4.8 billion currently. Another firm, IQ4I Research & Consultancy, projects it to be worth as much as $20.8 billion by 2020.
Multiple Drivers Propelling Growth
The impetus for growth in analytics will come from federal healthcare mandates, as well as the perceived benefits of improved patient outcomes, physician performance evaluation, higher quality care and increased fraud detection. According to IQ4I,
“The majority of the growth is driven by factors such as government funding, technological standards, rising healthcare awareness/standards, extending social health insurance, and medical tourism.”
Notably, these driving forces are present not only in the U.S., but in Asia and the Middle East as well.
Karen DeSalvo, chief of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), had said that it’s time to move beyond meaningful use into big data use (meaningful use issues notwithstanding). She said,
“We’ve done a great job in the past ten years to get where we are, but I am really excited about the next decade to advance this notion to get data beyond meaningful use and advancing interoperability.”
Key Players in the Space
Based on the promising results of recent healthcare data analytics endeavors, it’s no wonder health IT leaders are focused on making analytics their top priority. Large hospital systems in the U.S. and abroad are already using data analytics to improve patient outcomes. For example, Kaiser Permanente's Southern California hospitals lowered mortality rates by 26 percent using data analytics.
According to Health Data Management, there are 10 major players in the analytics market: Cerner, McKesson, Epic, IBM, Optum, Oracle, Allscripts, MedeAnalytics, Truven Analytics, and Information Builders— all working with a sizable number of institutions and scientists.
Big Data Analytics at Health 2.0
At the recently concluded Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference, companies showcased the extent of their big data analytics capabilities to deliver targeted therapies and save billions of dollars in the process.
According to a Medscape report, John Wolpert from IBM displayed how Baylor University researchers used the Watson supercomputer to analyze millions of articles and studies about colon cancer.
“Finding good clinical targets for therapeutics is hard,” said Wolpert. "It takes the entire clinical field about a year to find 1. With Watson, Baylor found 6 in 1 go.”
Another firm, the Open Medicine Institute, aggregates data from disparate sources, including wearable monitors, insurance databases, and laboratory tests, and applies data analytical tools. Their researchers have already discovered genes that can explain how chronic fatigue syndrome develops—and could possibly be treated.
“We believe this has the potential to revolutionize the way we can use healthcare data for treatment choices,” said Louis Monier, CEO of data analytics firm Kyron, which crunched EMR data and discovered a strong link between proton pump inhibitors and heart attacks, per Medscape.
The Big Future of Big Data
Companies may be talking about improving the quality of care, but their push for healthcare organizations to adopt analytics is also about the bottom line. Thus, the requisite caution that accompanies virtually every health IT initiative.
Indeed, as Sue Montgomery, RN said in a recent nuviun article, “predictive modeling and clinical analytics will eventually rule the roost—and we must ensure that a framework for safe and ethical use is created as it inevitably does.”
There is no question about the coming of the big data revolution in healthcare. Data analytics is already changing medicine. All healthcare stakeholders—government, health IT executives and vendors, insurers, health organizations, providers, patients—who embrace innovation and are skilled enough to leverage data analytics will reap the rewards of big data and help raise the quality of care.