“Big data” in health care has certainly promised a lot, with large investments in analytics capabilities by health and human service organizations. But the success of big data is, in part, a hostage to the halting efforts on health information exchange (HIE)—see Health Information Exchange-Can Work, Isn’t Working and Data Exchange Via Mail & Fax? In Today’s Market?.
We’ve written before about the strategic jeopardy for specialty provider organizations caused by the inability to participate in HIE (see HIE 3.0? and How To Be Operable In An Interoperable World), which is why a “prediction” in an recent Forbes article, Top 8 Healthcare Predictions For 2019, caught my attention: “Analytics shifts from big data to meaningful small data by hospital specialty.” I think that in many ways this is already, by necessity, happening. With the increase in the amount of value-based reimbursement (and more on the way) and the many challenges to making system-wide HIE actually work, executives are shifting their focus from this “ideal” of big data—to getting the specific data they need to make population-health management decisions that affect their reimbursement under these contracts. This is “small data” in action.
What is the difference between “big data” and “small data”? Big data is large sets of both structured and unstructured data that are so large that it must be analyzed to discern meaning in the information. Small data (see Big Data And Small Data: What’s The Difference?) on the other hand is quite different:
[S]mall datasets …are capable of impacting decisions in the present. Anything that is currently ongoing and whose data can be accumulated in an Excel file. Small Data is also helpful in making decisions, but does not aim to impact business to a great extent, rather for a short span of time.
The main difference, from my view, is that big data is a systematic sea change that is going to take a while to have lots of practical applications for health and human service provider organizations. Worth the effort, but a long term solution. Small data provide executive teams quick and instant information using the data on hand. The Forbes article went on to state:
[W]e foresee a high number of specialty-specific analytics solutions will gain prominence among providers striving to investigate drug utilization, treatment variability, clinical trial eligibility, billing discrepancy, and self-care program attribution specific to major chronic conditions.
Key to making this work—while we wait for HIE and interoperability to catch up—is to maximize the “value capture” of small data. And, we have a way to go. According to the McKinsey Global Institute 2017 update on digitization and analytics (see What’s Now And Next In Analytics, AI, And Automation), the health care field is capturing less than 30% of the potential value. Where should you focus your efforts? There are three ways to identify what data you have available, and how to operationalize use of your small data.
Define the business need—There are three key business needs for provider organization management teams in the field today: population health management (identifying at-risk consumers), identify and support the best treatment pathways (those with the lowest cost and best outcomes), and support operational automation by consumers, payers, clinical professionals, and procedures. For many provider organization managers, the “business need” will revolve around some form of value-based reimbursement (VBR).
Identify data sources—For many managers, finding the right data often becomes “catch as catch can.” Look at the business needs you just identified and then decide which ones you can support using the data you have (and the data you can actually get). Worried that your data isn’t good enough? There are two possibilities—the first is that your data is actually better than anyone else’s data, and the second is that you may have to build a relationship with another market stakeholder (payers, other provider organizations, etc.) and share data. HIE may not be at the global “big data” level everyone wants, but specific types of data can and is being shared.
Identify data users—The key to small data is providing the right team with the right “quick and instant analysis” so that they have the knowledge they need to guide practice and operations. Your technology team will probably play a role in building out the data sets and the dashboard for accessing this data, but just because they can measure and show the necessary information, doesn’t mean they “know” how to articulate that information for the intended audience. You need team members with “tradecraft” to do that. Pay special attention to aligning who is providing the data with who is using the data.
These three steps are elemental in taking the small data you can access and putting it to use in improving your organizational performance around specific measures. As your strategies and contracts change, the key is reassessing your reporting of key performance measures and the data needed to make it most useful. Looking for places to put this into action? Check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Helping ACOs Fill In The Complex Consumer Blanks
- 4 Lessons From ACOs For Managing Downside Financial Risk
- Opportunities In The Autism Market Shift With More Managed Care
- When New Contracts Mean New Technology: 4 Things To Remember
- Using Tech Tools To Build A High-Performing Organization
- Are You Strategically Interoperable?
- Integration, Interoperability & Consumer Engagement
- OPEN MINDS Value-Based Reimbursement Readiness Assessment
- Moving Out Of Your Comfort Zone: The VBR Technology Continuum
- Integrated Care Done Right – A Case Study In Using Population Health To Improve Outcomes For Individuals With SMI – White Paper Released By Topaz Information Solutions
And for more on a powerful reason to leverage your data, join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Deb Adler on August 12 for her seminar, How To Build Value-Based Payer Partnerships: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Marketing, Negotiating, & Contracting With Health Plans.