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Report: Feds Say Big Data Will Improve Population Health Management

March 24, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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But many agencies are not prepared for the influx of data, the report finds

Two-thirds of federal healthcare executives say that big data will significantly improve population health management and preventative care, according to a new report from the Alexandria, Va.-based MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on government IT issues.

The report, “The Big Data Cure,”—underwritten by the New York City-based health IT vendor EMC Corporation—surveyed federal executives focused on healthcare and healthcare research to examine the current state of big data in federal healthcare.  The report found that: 63 percent of federal healthcare executives say big data will help track and manage population health more efficiently; 62 percent say big data will significantly improve patient care within military health and Veterans Affairs (VA) systems; and 60 percent say big data will enhance the ability to deliver preventive care.

And more than half—59 percent—of federal executives working in agencies with a healthcare-related mission say that in five years, fulfilling their agency’s mission objectives will depend on successfully leveraging big data. Certainly, according to the report, federal agencies focused on healthcare research and care delivery are testing the waters today.  One in three say their agency has successfully launched at least one big data initiative—35 percent use big data to improve patient care, 31 percent are reducing care costs, 28 percent are improving health outcomes, and 22 percent are increasing early detection.

That said, many agencies are not yet taking steps to prepare for the influx of data. Less than one in five says their agency is very prepared to work with big data, according to the study.  Few have invested in IT systems/solutions to optimize data processing (34 percent), trained IT professionals to manage and analyze big data (29 percent), or educated senior management on big data issues (29 percent).

Further, the report found that that emerging technologies such as mHealth and machine-to-machine (M2M) will fuel change.  While just 15 percent of respondents say they have implemented M2M technologies today, 53 percent plan to do so within the next two years. Feds expect M2M technologies to have the greatest impacts on improving patient care and remote patient monitoring.  Better data, in real time, will lead to better decisions, the study says. 

All of this can be achieved, but not without some trials and tribulations, the report concludes. Feds expect securing patient data will represent the biggest challenge with M2M technologies.  Despite challenges, nine out of 10 respondents expect M2M technologies and data to have positive impacts across the healthcare industry. However, to reap these benefits, healthcare agencies must take steps now, so they can leverage the data before the technology delivers real returns, the report says.

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