Dr. Robert McGrath is an Associated Professor and the Director for Graduate Programs in Analytics and Data Science at the University of New Hampshire. Much of his work examines how big data can be used to improve health care practice and policies. Dr. McGrath has led many health care IT programs during his career, such as the Health Information Security and Privacy Project. He holds a Master’s in Health Policy and Management from Harvard University, as well as an MA and PhD in Social Policy from Brandeis University.
We spoke with Dr. McGrath to learn more about how hospitals and other medical facilities use the massive amounts of health care data available to them. Here are Dr. McGrath’s insights.
A second issue is that data in health care organizations often exist in silos. This primarily stems from the nature of how patients historically flow through these organizations. Care is largely episodic. Only recently are prevention and prediction of those episodes and the factors that drive them becoming actionable. Some large health systems have made more headway into these methods given their ability to create scaled IT solutions, albeit at a hefty cost. Once in place, however, they can leverage the vast amount of internal data from financial records, labs, medical records, claims histories, personal health data, and third party behavioral and social media data.
A third issue is one I call “strategic valuation of data as a raw material.” This holds true for all industries, but in health care, adoption of this vision is the exception rather than the norm. IT and analytic layers are usually patchwork quilts of solutions purchased in silos over time that are very difficult to sew together. Open source solutions may play a role in the future, but those obviously come with many privacy concerns.
A final factor to realizing gains in health data analytics is acquiring talent. Once vision is realized and systems are built around that vision, these entities will need analytics talent to fulfill its promise. Currently, that talent is in high demand, and some organizations may have to compete at high levels for it.
As to profits, they are being made. There is currently around $3 trillion flowing through the “health care system,” broadly defined. Until the larger issues of need vs. want and the right vs. privilege of health care and health are addressed, this is unlikely to change. Make no mistake, however, that health care is ripe for disruption, and I think we will start to see that happen in the near term. Whether that worsens or helps health care, from a data and information perspective, remains to be seen.