Editor's Desk: T.W.I.G. Notes

By Tom Sullivan
09:33 AM

Big Data and public health. They’re both at the forefront, this being National Public Health Week and all. And so the question: How to make sense of Big Data for public health’s sake?

But first, a good old-fashioned Government Health IT scoop: The VA and DoD are gearing up to add a forthcoming open version of 3M’s HDD to iEHR and to make it freely available to the healthcare industry ‘much like an open source component.’ Yes that’s HDD, as in Health Data Dictionary – opening the HDD could, in time, create a de facto industry standard medical terminology that EHR and other HIT vendors build upon to further interoperability here in the U.S. and potentially globally, too.

Which I suppose could figure into the Big Data discussion. About a decade ago when I covered BI for an enterprise IT weekly, there was a running joke that the words “business intelligence” comprised little more than a rather poignant oxymoron. To wit, even top-tier multi-million-dollar ERP and CRM systems, BI and other reporting tools within, sat in the IT shop like so many lonely bookends: each supporting valuable information but oblivious to the other. That was the Big Silo era, pre-Big Data.

With Big Data as a new frontier, Roger Foster addresses 6 approaches, relative to public health, that federal agencies can use to harness Big Data en route to the triple-aim of patient-centered care at lower costs that improves population health.

President Obama plunked some $200 million, coming from 6 federal agencies, on the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, which White House office of Science and Technology Policy director John P. Holdren boldly likened to past federal investments in IT R&D that sparked supercomputing and Internet advances.

Perhaps some money will wiggle toward CDC and HRSA, which the Institute of Medicine suggested work to bridge public and private health as a means of strengthening both. One such mean for doing just that, of course, is health information exchange.

Amid all the celebration of HIE progress, and the publication of a roadmap for getting there, even an IDC report outlining best practices, the question of just how much HIE, the verb, is actually happening for the money looms. Which is not to say that no health information is being exchanged. Recall that ONC is girding to stand-up NwHIN-Exchange as a non-profit, non-federal HIE spanning private and public health entities, come October.