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Big Data in Healthcare – Could This Be the Answer to a Broken System?

A doctor harnessing the power of big data on his tablet

The U.S. healthcare system has many issues. Generally speaking, Americans spend twice as much on healthcare as other developed nations. Likewise, significant inequities exist in both access to care and specialized treatments. Numerous inefficiencies also exist that drive up costs and result in lower quality outcomes. Over the years, a variety of policies and strategies have been tried, but to date, none have been highly effective. Because of this, many are now hoping healthcare data analytics may hold promise. If implemented well, big data in healthcare could provide tremendous advantages and revolutionize the care we receive.

With this in mind, one company focused on big data in healthcare is a startup called Truveta. The company consists of only 50 employees currently. However, it hopes to collect vast amounts of data, anonymize it, and leverage it to provide enhanced healthcare. Already, Truveta has convinced more than a dozen major healthcare systems to come on board. By using healthcare data analytics, these partners seen potential in personalized medicine, research and many other areas. Given the ramifications, it’s worth taking a deeper look into the company’s potential.

“Our vision is to save lives with data. We want to help researchers find cures faster, empower every clinician to be an expert, and help families make the most informed decisions on their care. We believe the Truveta platform can help improve health equity and advance personalized medicine.” – Terry Myerson, CEO of Truveta.

Truveta’s Vision for Healthcare Data Analytics

The origins of Truveta’s vision for using big data in healthcare arose from conversations with Providence Health System. Those involved connected with Terry Myerson, previously Executive VP at Microsoft in charge of Windows and devices. Myerson, intrigued by the potential of healthcare data analytics, then organized a team to expand the idea. The culmination of that idea was Truveta, which plans to collect, anonymize, aggregate, and sell it for a variety of purposes. Interested parties of this data is extensive including researchers and public health systems. It also will attract interest from many others including large systems offering patient care services and institutional health programs.

In terms of rates for accessing Truveta’s healthcare data analytics, different sources will be charged different fees. Commercial entities will naturally pay the most while research and public health sources will pay less. The key for success will be acquiring enough big data in healthcare to make the model work. Thus far, Truveta is off to a good start with 14 major health systems already as partners. These include health systems like Providence Health System, Novant Health, and Advent Health. (Read more about Novant Health and its drive for digital healthcare in this Bold article.) Current partners account for tens of millions of patients already in 40 different states. It therefore appears Truveta is off to a good start.

“For years we have seen the opportunity for diverse health providers to come together with a shared sense of purpose and use our collective data for the common good of humanity. With Truveta, we created a unique model that is led by the health providers yet supported by one of the most talented technical teams to focus on health.” – Dr. Rod Hochman, President and CEO of Providence Health System

Sources of Big Data in Healthcare

Healthcare data analytics is believed to have tremendous potential for change because it exists in large quantities. Both internal and external datasets exist, and these cover a range of healthcare areas. For example, internal systems include electronic health records as well as customer relations management data and health insurance transactional information. Similarly, the boom of wearable health devices, biometric sensors, and digital therapeutics offer a rich source of data also. And this fails to consider other sources like research data, social media, online blogs and journals, and more.

A doctor accessing big data on her tablet
Healthcare data analytics are reshaping the healthcare industry–for the better.

To date, the ability to collect and organize these vast sources of information has been hindered. Healthcare in the U.S. is notably fragmented, and privacy concerns have created barriers to such pursuits. The goal for Truveta is to anonymize these sources so this concern can be alleviated and obstacles removed. If successful, never before will such massive amounts of data be used to guide healthcare choices. These choices extend well beyond patient care and research. They involve a much broader scope of healthcare data analytics applications affecting policy, administration, and more.

“We believe the cure for certain diseases could lie within the Truveta platform. For the first time in the history of health, we have enough data at scale to dramatically advance innovation in healthcare with collective commitment to partner on ethical innovation.” – Michael Slubowski, CEO of Trinity Health

The Promise of Big Data in Healthcare

The potential for healthcare data analytics is not something that has been recently recognized. For decades, healthcare experts have touted big data in healthcare as a solution to address a disjointed and disorganize system. In fact, trends have been moving in this way for some time. Between 2012 and 2017, the healthcare data analytics market grew by 23.7 percent. Truveta and its partners are simply trying to scale a concept large enough to make a needed impact. If it’s successful, projections suggest big data in healthcare could reduce costs up to $450 billion for the U.S. That is a figure that attention-grabbing to say the least.

Beyond major cost savings and greater efficiencies, big data in healthcare is expected to usher in additional benefits as well. For example, healthcare data analytics can provide better surveillance of various health conditions and healthcare operations. This can then better establish predictive models that design proactive strategies within healthcare. Similarly, these same insights can drive better prevention efforts in a wide variety of areas. And healthcare data analytics will also advance precision medicine rapidly as these new insights are learned. Truveta and others understand this, which is why they are passionate about their mission. Though hurdles will undoubtedly exist, the hope that big data in healthcare offers will continue to push these efforts forward.

Read more about how big data is being used to revolutionize healthcare in this Bold Business article: A Painless Change That Could Improve Healthcare and Save Trillions of Dollars.


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