By Bill Goodwin
If you are like most leaders in business, you hear the words “Big Data” being used in promotions, internal meetings, vendor presentations and more. Big data – to an increasing extent – has become synonymous with “we can help you find the answers you need and improve profits.”
And, there is some truth in this statement. According to the International Institute for Analytics, businesses that use data will see $430 billion in productivity benefits over their competition not using data. Forrester predicts that real-time streaming insights into big data will be the hallmarks of data winners going forward. Without a doubt, data can help us make better more informed decisions. However, it is possible to over-rely on big data as a panacea for answers to complex healthcare business decisions.
Countless times I have been in meetings with vendors, internal personnel and clients where healthcare big data is mentioned in some form or another as being the solution to helping (better yet telling) them what to do. The competitive pressure in all markets today forces individuals to make decisions faster and more accurately, so the appeal of fresh insights from new clinical data analysis becomes extremely appealing.
In many ways, tapping into healthcare big data analytics can help, but all of us should be extremely careful about placing too much stock in there always being clear, action-oriented and effective go-forward strategies to be found in big data. In fact, I have been in front of many prospective clients over the last few years and they mention, albeit sometimes reluctantly, that they have been burned by previous companies who offer data-driven tools designed to provide answers they had previously been unable to find. So not only has big data in hospitals been marketed as the solution, it has also started to develop a reputation as being overrated.
Big data, more accurately described, is a general, all-inclusive term for a variety of complex data collection, processing and analysis generation that traditional applications are unable to handle. There is no question the accumulation and analysis of new data can be helpful to every organization. However, take ten organizations in the same industry that have the same big data inputs and I guarantee all will come out with different conclusions on what they should do next. Seems logical, yes, but how do you ensure your organization is not one of the ones that makes a critical misstep?
While big data can certainly provide critical insights for healthcare decision makers, we must approach big data cautiously and through a measured perspective. Here are three important considerations with regard to big data to leverage immediately:
Some data experts predict that we have already begun to move away from the era of big data in favor of “fast data” and “actionable data,” noting that most businesses don’t use a fraction of the data they have access to and should focus on asking the right questions to make the best use of data, big or otherwise. Certainly these data analytics changes will enable us to continue to enhance our insights and subsequent decisions.
With the continual advancement of how we access and analyze big data, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a necessary component of healthcare decision making – but it’s not the only factor. Regardless of the direction that big data goes, coupling the knowledge gained from data with our experience and intuition – and knowing when to favor one over the other – will become increasingly important in our complex healthcare landscape.