Hospitals enlist vendors for data analytics help

Tools

Providers are increasingly turning to big tech companies to help their data mining efforts, according to an article at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Vendors such as Microsoft, SAS, IBM and Oracle are giving mounds of data the once-over in an analytics industry that generated more than $30 billion last year, according to research firm IDC. That figure is expected to grow to $33.6 billion in 2012--and healthcare is a leading customer.

The article gives some enticing examples.

For example, a hospital in Washington, D.C., called in Microsoft to help look at readmission rates--the data helped pinpoint the infected room.

And a hospital system in central Texas asked IBM to help pore through doctor's notes and other unstructured data to help find ways to lower readmission rates for congestive heart failure patients. It found two big predictors of readmissions: lack of an emotional support network and a bulging jugular vein. Staff hadn't identified the latter as a risk factor.

The practice of data-mining, however, raises concerns. Hospitals have been criticized for mining patient data as a means to market to the most lucrative patients, for example. And data mining only exacerbates the concerns of patient advocates such as Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, who recently told Forbes that people will avoid seeing doctors if they feel their information isn't secure.

Although federal law requires a patient's consent to release certain health information, there is an exemption for activities that fall under "quality improvement," the article points out. And the use of analytics makes hospitals eligible for federal funds as part of Meaningful Use, fueling adoption.

The Office of the National Coordinator is listening, though, urging medical practices to hire a privacy and security officer to protect patient data, as FierceHealthIT reported this week.

Meanwhile, the rise of health information exchanges means there will be even more data to fuel analytics.

"As federal incentives drive the adoption of electronic health record technology in the U.S., we will quickly move into the post-EHR era where the value of patient data is not what is locked in an EHR data silo, but the cumulative patient data that resides in the community HIE network," John Moore, founder and managing partner of Chilmark Research, said in a recent report on the HIE market.

And a survey by research firm KLAS found half of the 137 healthcare organizations polled plan to update their business intelligence systems in the next three years, looking to add predictive analytics, data modeling, forecasting and trending to better use their data.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg Businessweek article
- see the Forbes article

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