Health IT

Industry leaders see opportunities for a new generation of data analytics in health IT

unique ideas and innovationInnovation and startups, according to Cleveland Clinic CIO Dr. Martin Harris, are the only way the healthcare system will be able to shift to one that’s focused on a new way of delivering team-based care.

“We need net new innovators who aren’t in the current delivery cycle bringing us those new tools that we can apply,” he said during a discussion about health IT at the Medical Innovation Summit. What are those tools health professionals desire?

What we know as analytics today is directed by humans asking computer systems to sort through piles of data to find answers to questions and problems that we’ve already generated. For example, technologies on the market allow hospitals to compare different interventions for, say, a patient with Crohn’s disease, and see how their outcomes stack up.

“We are creating this pile of data in which there are questions that we don’t know to ask,” Harris explained. “I think the next big function of what we’re calling analytics today is the idea that a computer can actually suggest the question.”


The Clinic has been working toward that in its partnership with IBM Watson. “We’re about to upload a de-identified set of data on somewhere close to 6 million patients and start asking the question, what didn’t we ask?”

The ability to formulate appropriate data queries faster and target the areas where greater interventions will stimulate greater change would be game changing, he said, as would other tools that would allow clinicians to practice at the top of their license.

The big guys in the industry recognize the importance of startups in all of this too. Dr. Peter Tippett, chief medical officer at Verizon Communications, said the company is trying to build bridges to enabled developers to think up new ways to use data, mobile technology and gamification to innovate. For example, one of its health IT offerings is a portfolio of cloud-based products to help the industry comply with HIPAA security requirements.

“If we could remove 70-80 percent of that problem (of making products HIPAA-friendly) from the developer community and just let that burden ride with somebody that’s big and willing to take the risk, I think those kind of things can accelerate the whole ecosystem,” he said.

Harris emphasized the need for collaboration not only in the industry but with providers in early-stage innovation. “The danger is, if (innovation) constantly comes totally in from the outside and isn’t integrated early, it will stand alone and may not be effectively integrated into the delivery system.”

[Image credit: Flickr user John Blyberg]

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