Healthcare, Risk Aversion, and Big Data Case Studies

Think for a minute about how much we spend on healthcare. In the United States, the numbers break down as follows:

Think for a minute about how much we spend on healthcare. In the United States, the numbers break down as follows:

  • Roughly $3 trillion spent annually, a number rising at 6-7% per year
  • This represents about 17% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • Some estimates put the number wasted annually on healthcare at a mind-boggling $2 trillion
  • There’s at least $60B in annual Medicare fraud alone each year (and some estimates put that number at $250B) in fraud

For more astonishing data on healthcare, click here. The stats are frightening. With so much waste and opportunity, it should be no surprise that quite a few software vendors are focusing on Big Data–and not just behemoths like IBM. Start-ups like Explorys, Humedica, Apixio, and scores of others have entered the space.

Where’s the Data?

With so much action surrounding Big Data and healthcare, you’d think that there would be a tremendous number of examples. You’d expect there to be more statistics on how Big Data has helped organizations save lives, reduce costs, and increase revenue.

And you’d be wrong.

big data healthcare

I’ve worked in hospitals a great deal over my career, and the term risk aversion is entirely apropos. Forget for a minute the significant difficulty in isolating cause and effect. (It’s not easy to accurately claim that deploying Hadoop throughout the organization saved 187 lives in 2012.)

Say for a minute that you’re the CIO of a healthcare organization and you make such a claim. Think about the potential ramifications from lawsuit-happy attorneys. Imagine having to respond to inquiries from lawyers about why you waited so long to deploy software that would have saved so many lives. What were you waiting for? How much will you pay my clients to drop their suit?

This isn’t to say that you can’t find data on, well, Big Data and healthcare. You can. You just have to look really hard–and you’ll more than likely be less than satisfied with the results. For example, this Humedica case study shows increased diagnosis of patients with diabetes who fell between the cracks.

Large organizations are conservative by their nature. Toss in potential lawsuits and it’s easy to understand the paucity results-oriented Big Data healthcare studies. What’s more, we’re still in the early innnings. Expect more data on Big Data in healthcare over the coming years.


What say you?