Go figure: The key to big data is actually small data

Healthcare organizations should break down data into smaller sets that can be used to build into larger programs, experts say.
By Jessica Davis
03:05 PM
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HIMSS Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum

Abbas Mooraj, Optum Vice President (right), and Dexter Braff, The Braff Group (left), speaking at the HIMSS Big Data and Analytics Forum on Monday.

BOSTON – To successfully leverage healthcare analytics, it might be time to break big data down into smaller increments to better transform the information into knowledge.

“Small data will tell us more than all of the big data we have now,” said Optum Vice President Abbas Mooraj, speaking at the HIMSS Big Data and Analytics Forum Monday.

Providers should move away from the idea of big data and instead focus on the small nuances of data, the information can reveal actionable insights, said Mooraj.

Dexter Braff, The Braff Group president, agreed.

“The smart VC isn’t looking for a big solution, they’re looking for a tiny solution.”

The idea, Braff explained, is to build a larger puzzle from each of these little pieces.

To Adrian Zai, research director for Partners ECare, it’s the most effective way to leverage all of those tools to the market.

“It’s a big market and there are a lot of tools out there,” said Zai. “In this era where we’re shifting from fee-for-service to value-based care, the solutions that target a specific outcome will have an edge.”

For example, Zai said that predictive models can provide a very targeted intervention, but the solution is part of the bigger picture.

“But whatever the solution you come up with, if it moves the needle in the right direction, it’s the right tool,” said Zai. “[Providers] all have unique problems, but you can can’t solve them with big, sweeping solutions. What they need is the little solution to move them to the next small step.”

Leveraging technology in this way may be most effective, it’s not always simple. Zai said there are some big challenges facing providers when attempting to establish a big data platform, including that EHRs weren’t designed to be a “scientific repository to drive better care -- it’s designed to optimize billing.”

“[EHRs] aren’t for channeling external data, but the problem doesn’t just lie with EHRs,” said Zai. EHR data is hierarchical or sequential, but big data is very different -- from the file types to schematics.

“Finding ways to really have all of this data work together is one of the biggest challenges we have today,” said Zai.

But while big data is often spoken about in big chunks, the direction the industry is heading in will break down the data siloes to create a shared data platforms.

To Braff, this will be best accomplished by creating regional, closed systems that link up providers and payers, while incentivizing both. However, it’s possible to aggregate providers, but patients can move between systems.

The challenge is with the payment models, said Braff. There have been a long list of ideas and emerging policies touted as the solution for transforming healthcare, like pay-for-performance, but not much has taken off as the payment methodologies aren’t right.

“Health IT sits at the crossroads, at the very center if what’s necessary in order to facilitate care,” said Braff. “From an investment standpoint, it’s all based on the assumption that these new payment models will be rooted in our system.”

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com


 Read our coverage of HIMSS Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum in Boston.
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