‘Practical Data’, ‘Actionable Data’ and ‘Useful Data’ vs. ‘Big Data’ in healthcare and medical devices sector

Having recently spoken at about a half dozen conferences on the subject of big data in government and healthcare I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re focusing, at least in healthcare, on the wrong topic. When we’re dealing with individual patients, and even population health across multiple patients, the size and velocity of the data (“big data”) isn’t anywhere near as important as “actionable data” or “useful data” – by focusing on, and frankly scaring people with, the term “big data” we’re undermining the potential immediate utility of all kinds of “small data”.

I’ve made suggestions to conference organizers to consider moving their terminology from “big data” to ‘practical data’, ‘actionable data’, or ‘useful data’, especially in the healthcare sector where a lot of the data that we have these days is not actionable yet.

Giving the amount of imaging, natural language, retrospective documentation, and other data we have in healthcare it would seem we could immediately start using “big data” tools but that’s not quite the case.

If you’re a conference organizer, I’d love to see the following topics / tracks covered soon:

  • Big Data vs. Actionable/Practical/Useful Data – which data doesn’t matter in healthcare and shouldn’t be areas of focus? Sometimes answering a negative is easier than a positive.
  • Practical statistics — Given Nate Silver’s spectacular success in predicting the Presidential election, what can healthcare learn from his practical statistics techniques?
  • Understanding data sources – where does the data come from? Without knowing data providence and sources we’re going to have a lot of trouble with analysis.
  • Understanding data integration – how do you integrate data from various sources such that they are actionable / practical / useful?
  • Understanding data governance – ownership and liquidity of data is a big question and deserves enormous attention. This is not a solved problem and needs research.
  • Tools and technology – this is pretty well covered in non-healthcare settings but time series data in healthcare has some nuances that need attention.
  • Human Capital and Hiring – how do you hire, train, and prepare data scientists, engineers, analysts, etc. to take advantage of the coming data deluge?
  • Case studies – bring in companies / people that have done something useful and ready to share repeatable capabilities. In most conferences we hear about how big data is going to be great but very little actual usage and experience in the form of case studies.

What else would you like to see from ‘big data in healthcare’ conferences?

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6 thoughts on “‘Practical Data’, ‘Actionable Data’ and ‘Useful Data’ vs. ‘Big Data’ in healthcare and medical devices sector

  1. After interviewing more than 30 healthcare companies using Bigdata, I agree that we need more concrete case studies that show not only how it is working, but where the examples fit into the current workflow.

  2. Excellent comments Shahid. Over the past year I have been at the core of activities to turn “data” into “actionable intelligence” and even to take it a step further, to wisdom. Wisdom comes from reflections on goals and outcomes, successes and failures, and the wisdom to learn from each.

    If you are involved with an organizing committee looking for speakers on how to turn data into wisdom, focusing on the patient at the center of the apex, I would be interested in hearing from you.

    Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season.

  3. In most conventions we listen to about how big information is going to be great but very little real utilization and encounter by means of case research.

  4. As a designer of a healthcare BI application and many large data warehouses, I
    have tried to stay away from the latest buzzwords in data. Those are usually
    created by marketing teams to sell more stuff.

    I believe there are two
    main areas that the healthcare industry needs to focus on before they move to
    the buzzwords —

    1. Creation of exception reports. Since healthcare is
    behind in analytics, the data and operational cleansing has not been done to the
    degree it has in other industries. Because of this, healthcare organizations
    have a hard time producing accurate reports. Exception reports will list items
    that need to be fixed when operational procedures are not followed…garb
    age in, garbage out.

    2. Move the management and creation of
    analytics from IT to the people that actually understand the data e.g.; CBO
    managers, CFO, Providers, RNs etc.

    After these items are done, healthcare
    will be ready for the next buzzword.

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