New Advances in Big Data Improve Healthcare Delivery


H2N.10Mike Allen:  “The annual Health 2.0 Conference  highlights big data tools to improve healthcare delivery.”

Over 2,000 attendees met in the Silicon Valley for  this leading health tech conference which drew medical entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and representatives from health plans and employers including  Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, Cigna, United Healthcare and Safeway.   Over the next few weeks, we will review and discuss highlights of the event starting with the developments in big data tools which analyze data sets too large and complex for traditional data processing applications.

logo_mcFor employers, new analytic tools for  population management are particularly promising.    Ben Wolin, founder of  Everyday Health, the consumer medical website, discussed how his firm’s big data tools provide consumers with customized health  information based on past search patterns.   Everyday Health’s website and analytic capabilities are being used to increase consumer engagement at Mayo Clinic Health Living, a corporate wellness and population management program.

indexA different approach to population management was described by John De Souza, CEO of  MedHelp.  His firm uses information gathered from Smartphone and online tracking systems to help General Electric analyze employee activity levels, sleep patterns and moods.  MedHelp’s demo of GE data, which is available at the Health 2.0 site,  shows how their big data tools help GE  assess the impact of  wellness programs and gain insights into health management programs for specific conditions.

Employers should be aware of new data sources which can pinpoint health improvement opportunities when integrated with existing health information.  For instance, Bill Davenhall of  ESRI introduced his firm’s new database of environmental hazard sites.  A physician treating a patient for lung cancer can use this data to develop a “medical place history” which uses the patient’s past home and work addresses to identify past exposure to carcinogens.  Also, environmental health professionals can correlate the incidence of employee health conditions with hazard exposure at different company locations and use this information to mitigate risk.

For patients recovering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), Moving  Analytics has developed sophisticated algorithms which use patient movement data to determine if rehab plans are working.  Harsh Vathsangam’s start-up uses motion tracking capabilities of Smartphones to trigger status reports and reminders for both patients and their physical therapists.  With over 80% of workers’ comp claims resulting from MSD, Moving Analytics has great potential.

Finally, Silica Labs is developing Apps to harness the healthcare potential of Google Glass as commercial versions role out in the first half of 2014.   CEO Marvin Ammori is betting on “hands free” apps that let physicians record patient conversations, consult remotely during surgeries and access checklists, instructional materials and images at the point-of-care.  Health plans should be able to employ big data tools to analyze this massive new source of information and use it to improve physician effectiveness.

There are many initiatives underway to improve the interoperability of different data sets which will make it easier to create larger databases for analysis.  Phillipe Schwartz, CEO of App and device developer  Withings, described how his team is developing and refining API’s (application programming interfaces) to let customers integrate his firm’s data with other systems.   Most large mobile health developers have similar initiatives and employers should consider APIs and other evidence of interoperability as a requirement for Apps that they are considering for wellness and chronic disease management programs.

At a more global level,  Dr. Peter Tippett discussed Verizon’s three industry initiatives to improve the interoperability of health data.    Identity authentication technology will keep track of doctors and patients who are constantly moving, changing names, and locations.  Other Verizon tools will make it easier to to merge different types of data, and to keep data HIPAA compliant.

Employers are especially well situated to use big data because of their access to employee data from health, wellness, safety and workers’ comp programs as well as information from human resource information systems.   A good place to begin assessing the market for big data and other health technology services is the Health 2.0 website which provides archived presentations, a blog and other services.

Look for technology solutions that address your high payoff business issues and that are supported by organizations willing to dig in and understand your requirements.   For those who do this right, there can be a significant improvement in the health and wellness of your employees.

October 7, 2013 |

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