Big data is actually 'Bigger Data' for healthcare

As the amount of available health data explodes, executives must learn how to dig through it to get to the key performance indicators.
By Bill Siwicki
04:07 PM

Stefano Bertozzi, dean and professor of health policy and management at the UC Berkeley School Of Public Health, likes to use a slightly different term for the Big Data. He likes to call it, "bigger data."

“Healthcare data is getting bigger all the time,” he explained. “Just look at EHRs alone: Medical records becoming electronic, with the ability to access vast amounts of data about patients and the health system, is increasing rapidly. The rate of change in terms of how quickly we are digitizing data in the health space is astounding. And when you start to combine that data with things like human resources, supply chain, characteristics of clinics and hospitals, provider training, reimbursement schemes – it just gets bigger.”

Consequently, that enables a health system to start to be able to put together a much more compelling picture of itself, which then can help the health system figure out what the determinants are for high performance to make the system better, Bertozzi said. 

  Learn more at the Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum in San Franciso, May 15-16, 2017.  Register here.

“We are in an increasingly data-rich world,” he said. “With my students, I tell them when I was a graduate student, data was extensive and analysts were plentiful. Now, data is ubiquitous and the bottleneck is our analytic capacity.”

Bertozzi said that having bigger and bigger Big Data can reveal differences in care, differences that can lead to positive changes.

“Making differences apparent that were previously hidden is important because behaviors change as a result. Nobody wants to be at the low-performing end of a distribution,” he said. “Secondly, increasing the sophistication of the data available means we can understand better than before why some providers, some programs, some counties, perform better than others. Understanding those causal links, why some places perform better than others, puts health systems in a much stronger position to intervene.”

It’s easy when differences are identified to assume they can be attributed to variations in resources or populations rather than performance, Bertozzi said.

“But to the extent that we are increasingly able to correct for other factors that create differences, Big Data can reveal what the differences in performance really are,” he said. “And as a result, what are the interventions that are effective for improving the performance.”

Bertozzi will deliver a keynote address on Big Data at the HIMSS and Healthcare IT News Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum, May 15-16, 2017, in San Francisco, during a session entitled “Using Bigger Data to Improve Population Health.” 

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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 Read more of our preview coverage of the  Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum in San Francisco, May 15-16, 2017.
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