Analyze: Takeaways from the HIMSS Big Data Forum

HIMSS Analytics

The HIMSS Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum took place in Boston, MA on October 22-23, 2018. During the event, experts and peers from around the world joined to explore the knowledge gaps in their organizations, learn about how to best use their analytics strategy to increase their competitiveness, and get key insights on leveraging big data analytics in healthcare.

The conference is crucial for healthcare professionals everywhere as they strive to transition to value-based care. If you didn't get the chance to attend, don't worry — you can still use some of the insights gained at the conference for a more strategic approach to patient care.

Here are the top 10 takeaways from the HIMSS Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum.

Top 10 Takeaways from the HIMSS Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum


1. Data is growing exponentially.

We now have more healthcare data available to us than ever before. We used to talk in terabytes, and now we communicate in petabytes — and one petabyte is equivalent to over 4,000 digital photos per day, over your entire life. That's a massive amount of information that can be either a bane or a boon to healthcare organizations, depending on how they use it.

When used in a meaningful way, data has been leveraged to improve patient outcomes, reduce the overall cost of care, increase operational efficiency and more. To reap these benefits to their full potential, we need to figure out how to unpack and separate the data to best analyze.

2. Health data should belong to the patient, not the provider.

As the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) has increased, the amount of patient data collected has increased as well. Today, most systems allow patients to access this data through web-based patient health portals, but because providers are the ones technically "generating" this data, many have asked the question: Who actually owns personal health data?

The answer that the industry is moving toward: the patient. When patients have access and control over their own health data, they become more engaged participants in their own health and wellness. Ultimately, this engagement can help lead to better outcomes and more efficient care.

3. Value-based care is here to stay.

The transition to value-based care is not a question anymore; it's a reality. More providers are gradually moving to this model that places a higher emphasis on the quality and efficiency of care than previous models — but we have more work to do to fully achieve it.

Many providers are using data and analytics to break down the components of surgeries and look to optimize the cost, while keeping or improving outcomes. The benefits of this model are profound, but there are still plenty of organizations lagging behind, and others that require new technology investments and more robust adoption across departments to fully take advantage of this model.

4. In the not-too-near future, healthcare may be a subscription-based model.

Driven largely by data, risk models and AI, subscription-based care makes healthcare more affordable and accessible for patients everywhere. Rather than paying for each service that a doctor provides, patients pay regular installments for a wider assortment of services, such as unlimited doctor's visits or personalized service.

The use of technology like AI helps make this possible. Mind you, however, AI will not replace providers, but should work alongside providers. AI can use data-driven algorithms and machine learning to help clinicians replace some of the rote tasks, reducing costs, driving efficiency and improving outcomes.

5. Population health and personalized medicine show a lot of promise.

To some, population health and personalized medicine seem to contradict each other. How can providers treat and improve the health of general populations while still providing optimized care to individuals? However, it's the marriage of these two concepts that are transforming the quality of healthcare.

By focusing on a truly personalized view of each individual patient — and taking into consideration the social, economic and environmental factors that can affect an individual's health — providers can achieve optimal health outcomes reverberate throughout the community.

6. Telehealth has the ability to bridge care gaps.

An enduring goal of the healthcare industry has been to provide quality care to everyone who needs it, no matter where they are. In rural areas, this can prove difficult. However, the use of telehealth technologies allows individuals to see specialists and other healthcare providers even in the most remote of environments.

Enabled by medical devices and data exchange about the patient, telehealth is one of the most obvious testaments to the value of technology in healthcare. Simplicity, convenience and extended reach mean that more patients receive care, improving population health overall.

7. Security and ethical use are of the utmost concern.

As the collection of data and personal health information increases, so too does the opportunity for data breaches and other security risks. The frequency of data breaches — and the extent of those data breaches — has been increasing every year, making security and ethical use top of mind for healthcare providers.

It is said that on the dark web, a patient's complete medical record data can be worth $1000 or more. By far, this is more than even your social security number and credit card information. With this in mind, providers will need to be very careful to ensure that any existing or updated technology in use at their organizations has robust security systems in place.

8. We need a Master Patient Identifier to facilitate interoperability and data exchange.

Interoperability and data exchange have been a major challenge for healthcare organizations across the board. With the ability to freely exchange patient data between healthcare information systems, providers can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care.

To improve interoperability and data exchange, we need a US-wide — maybe even world-wide — Master Patient Identifier. Some countries have unique solutions to facilitate data exchange. For example, New Zealand uses one EMR vendor for the entire country, and China has set up a database for the health information of all of their citizens.

9. Wearables and personal connected devices are generating a lot of data...

But there is more work to do before they become integrated into our EMR / personal health record. Wearable devices, such as the recently released FDA-approved electrocardiogram app for the Apple Watch Series 4, have become a hot topic in healthcare for their unique potential to improve and personalize patient care.

However, as it's been said before: There is a need to separate the data signal from the noise. Many have expressed the concern that the data generated by wearable devices is not accurate or even relevant to patient care. As technology advances, perhaps we'll be able to interpret this data in a way that's actionable for the clinician, but for now, it's probably best to err on the side of caution.

10. HIPAA is an antiquated law that needs to be revised/updated to reflect current/future use of health information.

Signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was created, in part, to protect citizens' health insurance and health information. However, healthcare technology has advanced rapidly and will continue to advance in the coming years, and the current HIPAA laws fail to reflect the new paradigm in healthcare.

Though HIPAA was innovative when it was first created, it desperately needs an overhaul. Continued innovation in healthcare means that legislation like this need to be flexible to keep up with continuing advancements and an ever- changing technology landscape.

Expert Insight for Optimal Care

As the healthcare landscape evolves, and it's important to stay informed on recent and forecasted trends to understand where the industry is going and how best to adapt to those changes. Technology is progressing faster than our cultural understanding of how to use it, sparking difficult questions about big data analytics in healthcare, consent and responsibility. As providers strive to improve patient outcomes — and vendors of healthcare technology aim to extend their reach — these questions should be top of mind.


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