Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Big Data and the Coming New Value Proposition for Disease, Care and Wellness Management Providers

Disease Management Care Blog readers know that the its latest interest is "Big Data." While the researcher-DMCB has played in the sandbox of some insurance claims data sets, the idea of combining and combing through multiple terrabytes of clinical and public data remains a topic of endless fascination. It knows it's not alone.

So, it was only a matter of time until one of the major clinical journals published an article on the topic. JAMA has stepped forward, and not a moment too soon.

It's "must reading" for the disease and care management provider community.

Drs. Murdoch and Detsky point out that Big Data offers four value propositions:

1. Observational correlations may generate insights that cannot be found using standard research approaches. Scanning text for key words in electronic record systems involving hundreds of thousands of patients may find associations or trigger early warnings faster, quicker and cheaper than any formal scientific protocol or clinical trial.

2. Those insights, especially since they can be tailored to fit the circumstances of an otherwise unique patient, can be used to guide diagnosis or treatment. Physician judgement cannot be replaced, but if Big Data points out that there were other patients with a similar pattern of illness who responded best to one treatment versus another, patient outcomes could improve.

3. A Big Data approach to genomics can correlate genetic information with outcomes and further guide therapy. While the DMCB still wonders if "genomics," outside some narrow anecdotes, will always remain the science of the future, Big Data may turn out to be the key to finally unlocking its potential.

4. Since Big Data, by its very nature, can combine clinical information to other personal data (the foods you've bought or your driving history), Big Data will necessarily tilt toward the patient-consumer and away from the health care system. Not only does permission for access lie with the patient, but the insights will be less about sickness and more about wellness.

The authors do a good job of pointing out that there are plenty of challenges. Most doctors don't get it, privacy laws could be over-interpreted or enforced, it remains to be seen who will pay for it and Big Data is still in its infancy.  The DMCB also points out that while Medicare has just discovered that alternative research innovations are possible, Big Data promises to eclipse those approaches (like traditional time series analysis, propensity matching), again making CMS a day late and another dollar over budget.

The implications for the care management and population health community are considerable. The industry has amassed years of intellectual capital in the science of predictive modeling and Big Data is it's next step. Many care management vendors have multiple clinical partners and already have access to terrabytes of data involving millions of persons. Not only is the math and the informatics well within reach, they also "get" the tilt toward wellness and consumer empowerment. Last but not least, if anyone can monetize a value proposition like this and turn insights into revenue (or "shared savings"), these nimble vendors can.

A DMCB prediction: while academics will write about Big Data in scientific journals, the care management industry will be doing it.  In fact, they probably already are.

Two particularly good quotes to use to impress your CEO and stymie your competitors:

"Data has gone from refuse to riches."


Economic theory describes the quantitative conversion of 3 kinds of inputs (capital, labor, and raw materials) into outputs (goods and services)...The current revolution in data management makes it clear that a fourth kind of input, information, will become just as important as these other inputs in the future of many industries.

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