Start-ups want to help hospitals harness big data

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As the healthcare industry wakes up and smells the potential of big data, hospitals are experimenting with ways to harness it--and two new start-ups want to help them do so.

Charité University of Medicine Berlin, Europe's largest university hospital, is using increasingly large stores of complex information not only to improve quality and aid clinicians and researchers but also helps improve senior management processes, according to a case study in Forbes magazine.

Deputy CIO Martin Peuker told Forbes that more than 700 hospital employees have access to a central data warehouse that holds both financial and operational information. Every senior manager has ready access to data about operations, scheduling, patient care, and patient records. The entire repository of information stored by the hospital exceeds 1.6 petabytes.

A McKinsey Global Institute report released last year said that effective and creative use of big data could create more than $300 billion in value for the U.S. health system every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent, according to the report.

All that big data potential has inspired Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to create a new startup, QI Healthcare, according to MedCity News article.

QI Healthcare's first product is called Surgical Outcomes Collection System (SOCS). The application aggregates data from various hospital systems, including electronic medical records, to enable "institution-wide analyses of cases to identify opportunities to improve patient care," according to a QI statement.

"The real power of this software is in the ability to analyze every significant patient case," Frederick Ryckman, professor of surgery and senior vice president for medical operations at Cincinnati Children's, said. "Before SOCS we spent countless hours manually gathering data. SOCS improves the process through automation and enhanced analytics--and it frees up clinical resources to focus on quality improvement."

Another big data start-up announced this month aims to help hospitals better analyze large amounts of disparate data. Health Care DataWorks was founded on technology developed at Ohio State University, according to another MedCity News article.

"The Columbus, Ohio company's enterprise data warehouse provides a pre-built model to organize the massive amounts of data--financial, clinical, administrative and research--flowing through a hospital," according to the site.

Meanwhile, some say big data has its limits. Check out this PC Magazine article about the big problems with big data--including generating, collecting and sharing it. As FierceHealthIT reported in February, information silos are the primary reason available data often isn't used to its fullest potential in healthcare.

Speaking at a conference last week, former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra reiterated there is potential in big data--but added that it needs to be more accessible.

"Today's healthcare information is locked away in a document--a person's medical records--but how do you parse those documents?" Chopra said, according to a GigaOM article. "The data architecture is wrong. The architecture should be built on data."

To learn more:
- read the Forbes magazine case study
- see the McKinsey report on the potential of big data
- see the MedCity News articles on QI Healthcare and Health Care DataWorks
- read the QI Healthcare announcement
- read the PC Magazine article on the problems with big data
- get more info on Chopra's talk at GigaOM

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Flexibility from hospitals needed for data use to reach its potential