After serving as acting CIO following the departure of John Glaser, James Noga took the job at Partners HealthCare permanently as of April, 2011. His journey though, was built on “a legacy he helped create,” said Partners President and CEO Gary Gottlieb. 

Noga’s duties span all the health information systems at the integrated system, including two academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals and health centers. Partners has invested $2 billion in technology in the last 10 years including full electronic medical records that touch every physician in the system.

Now, Noga says, health care needs to meet ongoing challenges with emerging technologies like big data and cloud computing. “As a CIO in the health care industry, it’s my responsibility to be the enabler for big data analytics, assessing what can we push into public or private cloud, what to keep within the walls of the data center.”

All these computing models must tolerate a highly regulated environment of patient privacy where opportunities are also elevated. Noga points to a McKinsey study that indicates as much as $300 billion is waiting in health care big data. Two-thirds of that is in cost savings and better outcomes in areas like pharmacological vigilance. There are obvious human benefits waiting, he says, “in problems like were later found with the drug Vioxx that could have been predictably have been noted years before.”

At cutting-edge Partners, the bar for big data is set high. “In a few years all of us will be able to have whole genome sequencing, a vast data set,” Noga says. “The unique thing about genetics is that it isn’t static. In other words, we’ll be constantly iterating data as we identify new variants and markers and find out that a particular drug works for you but it doesn’t work for me.”

Quotable: “Being able to take structured and unstructured data and index it for treatments, outcomes and cost is really value based medicine. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is through a critical mass of data that we really can comb through [with] the analytics to look for these patterns. Big data allows you to experiment and test whether we are able to influence the behaviors of people, which is especially important in preventative medicine.”

Read about the next 2012 honoree.

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