5 tips to becoming a big data superhero

'Our goal with respect to analytics, big data, population health is to protect, aid, support, those who give and receive care'
By Tom Sullivan
10:50 AM
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man in business suit with superhero costume

Who’s the most powerful superhero?

Rishi Sikka, MDhas a favorite and it’s one most people have probably never even heard of: Waverider.

Sikka, senior vice president of clinical transformation at Advocate Healthcare, considers Waverider the most powerful superhero because he can surf the time stream and predict the future.

Leading up to his presentation here at the Healthcare IT News Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum in New York, Sikka looked up the word "hero" and found that it has existed for millennia -- it was even used prior to tongues we can trace -- and the root concept is "to protect."

Based on that definition from the Latin, and with a focus on population health management in mind, Sikka shared a fistful of tips about becoming a big data superhero.

1. Your power is looking to the future but your strength lies in the past and present. So healthcare professionals and organizations must assemble the data necessary to understand your current state of being, including knowing as much as possible about patients.

2. Pick your battles wisely. "All the great superheroes know when it’s time to move on," Sikka said, pointing to the need for risk stratification and strategic resource allocation, which is "where big data and population health intersect."

3. Your enemy has a name – and it’s regression to the mean. "I know it’s not very sexy," Sikka said of his description of that enemy. He recommended that healthcare organizations consider the impactability of what they are doing, or focusing on where they can have the biggest impact. "I hope impactability will become a buzzword in the next year or two."

4. Your superhero name is not ... Cassandra. "It’s a lovely name," Sikka explained, "just don't pick it as a superhero name." Why not? In Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of Apollo and a mortal mother, could predict the future. That was the blessing. The curse: Nobody believed her. "We don't want population health to be an academic exercise.”

5. Don't forget your mission. Every superhero is out fighting the bad guys, saving humanity, but sometimes even they can forget why they’re on this earth. "When we talk about population health we talk a lot about cost. We talk about bending the cost curve," he added, "but I don't know a single person on the front lines of care who gets jazzed up to bend the cost curve. The work revolves fundamentally around health." Sikka suggested that healthcare professionals work to steer the dialogue back to clinical outcomes and wellness.

Sikka wound back around to the root of the word hero: "Our goal with respect to analytics, big data, population health," he said, "is to protect, aid, support, those who give and receive care.”