The Best Little Approach to Big Data Results

It’s all too familiar that Big Data comes at “Big Cost”. Big Data has the potential (and in some cases the track record) to be a catalyst behind increasingly efficient and higher-quality healthcare – let’s call it “enlightened healthcare”. The demand for enlightened healthcare exists across thousands of providers regardless of setting or size. Making these Big Data tools affordable is essential to the spread of enlightened healthcare. In the end, health systems are spending a fortune on Big Data architecture and intelligence. Some can afford it and some cannot.

Despite health systems having built a Big Data industry segment through hundreds of millions of dollars invested, the average hospital still does not get actionable ROI from Big Data. And they certainly are not ready to add artificial intelligence into the milieu. The competent generalists staffed by the average health system have not proven they can excel at quickly deploying the right amount of technology for the challenge, nor the the ability to consistently organize and drive internal performance improvement projects. The results of these efforts are all too often committees, multiple vendor evaluations, 18-month projects and seemingly endless debate.

Better decision support soon becomes intertwined with population health and other macro-initiatives. Meanwhile patients, real people with problems, are being run through care processes with too much variation and sub-optimal results. And care providers, real people solving problems, trudge along making the best decisions they can without the full decision support their organization is already capable of delivering. What’s needed is technology that disrupts the “$3 M and 3-year data warehouse” paradigm. What’s needed is an advanced but adoptable means of real-time alerting and retrospective analysis. What’s needed is a tool that can take advantage of the data already in the hospitals’ systems and can analyze structured AND unstructured data for opportunity.

Instead of the prevalent “Big Data” model, why not approach this from a lean perspective? Why not address the 5 clinical workflows the hospital already knows need improvement? Why not produce the just-in-time data warehouse that is sufficient to go after these problems? Why not buy just enough technology to get that ROI, then build on the success? Can that technology please be implemented in 100 days and cost less than 6 figures? We need a little approach to Big Data.

For example, incidental findings from OP medical imaging are a persistent problem. The findings from radiologists doing their jobs and documenting further follow up needed often sit unread and wait for manual handling simply because the language around the finding is unstructured. Fixing this “miss” has been shown to lead to early stage cancer detection repeatedly. How much more of a call to action is required? And yet the approach to fix this with readily and economically available technology is often buried in larger efforts around Big Data. So patients wait and health systems underperform.

If you have read this far, it is certainly self-serving for me to now state that we have such a tool at iWT health called NOTIFI. But it makes my point no less valid. NOTIFI was developed and applied to solve the example above regarding incidental findings for several years now. As the failed Big Data approach became clear to iWT health, NOTIFI was enhanced and purposed to solve other clinical workflow problems too. Regardless of whether you find NOTIFI or some other tool that works, health systems should reconsider the status quo approach. The “$3 M and 3-year data warehouse” option is not working for most and in fact Big Data becomes an excuse for delays, failures and wasted resources. Go “little” on Big Data

Frank Expressions

At this moment, nearly every person at iWT health is busy prepping for HIMSS 2017 where we will exhibit, visit, network, and sell our hearts out just like thousands of other healthcare IT professionals. I must admit as a healthcare professional who came from a background of hospital operations and performance improvement, I was astounded 2 year ago when I attended the HIMSS conference for the first time.

The size and scope of this conference is difficult to describe. This year, HIMSS17 is held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, which has over 2.1 million square feet of exhibition space. There are dozens of companies with slightly different pitches for every shiny new technology one can imagine. Some of the larger EHR vendors have opulent exhibits seemingly the size of a city block. I stand amazed at the millions of dollars going into this one event every year which is only a fraction of the HIT spend in our healthcare system. I marvel at the overwhelming scale and size of this part of healthcare, that the average hospital employee will never experience.

And then I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I remember the pressure on the people delivering care that are forced to do more with less every day. I feel guilty because I know the “knot in the gut” feeling health system leadership gets as they search for the annual 10% reduction in costs.

Are we attending HIMSS sharing that pain and pressure? Have we strived to deliver our technology for 10% less every year? Have we figured out to make our solutions last longer, upgrade easier, implement faster, or flex to patient care demands? Are we quietly happy to leave the burden of adoption, workflow and affordability to our customers? How much do we own this larger challenge?

Affordable and better healthcare for all will require the effort of our entire healthcare ecosystem – especially those of us claiming to develop and deploy transformative informative technologies – to create something exponentially different. That is hard work. HIMSS 2017 reminds me that we want to be part of their solution, not the problem.

Frank Johnson

CEO, iWT health