The U.S. health care industry is increasingly turning to big data to improve outcomes, reduce costs and better allocate resources, despite obstacles. 

These were among the chief findings of a survey conducted this spring by the eHealth Initiative and the College of Health Information Management Executives. The survey of CIOs and other C-level health care executives at 102 provider groups, hospitals, health systems and health information exchange organizations examined trends in data use and associated challenges and barriers. 

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents agreed that big data and predictive analytics were important to their institution’s plans and priorities, but an even larger number – 84 percent – believe that their organization faces significant challenges in terms of applying these technologies. Only 45 percent of the respondents indicated that their organization has a workable plan for making use of the growing volume of health data that’s available to them.

Among the key findings: 

  • Data analytics are used for a wide range of applications including revenue cycle management, resource utilization, fraud and abuse prevention, population health management, and quality improvement.
  • Eighty-two percent of respondents are engaged in sharing patient and clinical data with local health care organizations.
  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents are using analytics for revenue cycle management. 
  • Two-thirds of the respondents are using analytics to prevent fraud and abuse. 
  • The most common use of analytics, reported by 90 percent of the respondents, was for quality improvement.
  • Administrative and insurance claims data were reported to be the most common data sources, but unstructured text-based data and device and sensor data are expected to become much more important going forward, as the technology matures and devices become more ubiquitous.
  • Only 18 percent of respondents have staff sufficiently trained to collect, process, and analyze data. Sixteen percent address these shortages by employing third-parties such as consultants, while 26 percent report that although they have tried hiring more staff for analytics, they haven’t candidates who are sufficiently trained. Another 34 percent complain that their senior management hasn’t made analytics a staffing priority. 
  • Other common barriers to conducting more analytics include data ownership and governance issues, data integration challenges and lack of funding.  

The eHealth Initiative is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit organization that advocates for greater health care efficiencies through the applied use of information technology. eHealth is sponsored by over 200 members representing a broad spectrum of industry participants and stakeholders. 
CHIME is an executive association dedicated to serving chief information officers and other senior IT executives in the health care industry. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the association has more than 1,400 CIO members.

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