Big data holds keys to population health

'Population health management requires much more than an EMR to manage clinical and claims data'
By Jessica Davis
10:23 AM
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Big data is on the minds of everyone in the healthcare field, as they work to harness it to create more complete patient profiles for better population health.

Explorys Vice President of Provider Programs Sarah Mihalik sees this as a critical time for big data in healthcare, and she urges healthcare leaders to consider new technology and ways of thinking to fully incorporate big data ideas into their practices.

Mihalik will explore these ideas during her presentation, "Big Data: Is Healthcare Ready?" at the HIMSS Media and Healthcare IT News Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum, Nov. 5-6 at Westin Copley Place in Boston.

"Population health management requires much more than EMR to manage clinical and claims data, Mihalik tells Healthcare IT News.

"Clinical data is mostly unstructured and modern-day risk models can't move beyond simple claims data," she adds. "By utilizing the most advanced technology, healthcare providers can get a broader picture of their patient's needs."

[Learn more: Meet the speakers at the Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum.]

Mihalik seeks to shed light on the integration of data, such as the methods healthcare professionals use to analyze, process and interpret data. She'll explore "machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and cognitive computing" and the ways these processes can be put into practice.

"Very real work is happening in healthcare that is turning big data into big insights and action," Mihalik says. "Even if their organization isn't quite ready for each of these themes, these are topics that most healthcare industry leaders are thinking about and incorporating into their strategic analytics roadmap."

Mihalik aims to "de-mystify the buzz around big data" during her presentation, and help healthcare professionals better incorporate analytics methods into their population health management strategies.

As one of the leaders of Explorys, Mihalik has seen these strategies in action. The Cleveland Clinic spinoff was founded in 2009 and acquired by IBM this past April. Explorys is now a part of IBM's Watson Health unit, working with what's touted as the largest clinical data set in the world, containing data of some 50 million people.

"As health systems, payers and industry providers continue to consolidate, and as the healthcare consumer continues to expel more and more data every year, it will be critical for industry leaders to develop a big data strategy," says Mihalik.

It's crucial to incorporate "new thinking, new process, new people and new technology to achieve the value that several other industries have been able to harness from leveraging big data," she says.

Sarah Mihalik presents on Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Healthcare IT News Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum. Register here.