Big Data or Big Distraction? Some post HiMSS 2012 Reflections

February 26, 2012

By Gregg A. Masters

Since returning from Las Vegas, I’ve been watching the still active #HiMSS12 hashtag tail and sorting through the themes that seem likely to have legs in the marketplace of actionable ideas.

One of those presented at the @Dellhealth ‘think tank’ was ‘Big Data’, albeit rather undefined. For the recorded version of this event, click here (my comments begin at the 1:26:30 mark).

While I do grasp the promise (and excitement) HIT can play in the remedy of our ‘whack-a-mole’ change resistent healthcare conundrum, my sense is ‘Big Data’ (as an industry) is a distraction from the underlying ‘dis-ease’.

A very interesting piece was just published by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, aka @healthythinker titled ‘HIMSS 2012 in retrospect – from patient engagement to Big Data. Viva Las Vegas or Tumbling Dice?’

Clearly in an episode based, volume driven fee for services paradigm, we do not value integration or coordination, let alone population management. Yet, the idea that if only we could tether, integrate and redistribute ‘health data’ to the right place at the right time we’d enable the promise of the ‘triple aim’ across a spectrum of discrete and more often than not competitive silos, seems a tad naive.

‘Gag orders’ notwithstanding, the technical challenges are the least of our worries. Add that to the mix of competitive reluctance to share health information, the legacy interests of certain platform and software vendors, the overwhelming resistance of community physician EHR adoption into workflow, and you begin to scale if not ‘adjust’ the potential upside of the remedy.

As noted at the Dell event, in my view ‘big data’ is the equivalent of a ‘rorschach test’, i.e., as in any projection of your definition of big data will do. So let’s get realistic and minimally define what we mean by big data. Given all health care is local, that will mean the consideration footprint will be different for Eugene Oregon, than Lawrence Kansas, and even as one HiMSS attendee told me, from pediatrician one vs. pediatrician two in the same market if not practice.

For a partial recap of the Dell Think Tank, check out the #domoreHIT thread.

An excellent context and broader industry POV is provided via Forrester see: ‘Big Data: Does It Make Sense To Hope For An Integrated Development Environment, Or Am I Just Whistling In The Wind?‘.

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