More than Just Cool Technology

Mark Phillips

I spent a few days at the GE Global Research Center recently. The center has been a cornerstone of innovation for more than 100 years. It is one of the world’s most diversified industrial research labs developing breakthrough solutions in areas as varied as aviation, healthcare, lighting, transportation, and water.  As you might expect, there are all kinds of futuristic projects happening there. A favorite of mine is the work to take big data in the form of a large ambulatory clinical database paired up with the contributions of data from a Health Information Exchange which brings in a whole new ecosystem that is then used to build predictive models.  The first target is therapeutic efficacy, but this just scratches the surface of what’s possible.

Another example of note is the competition announced in Apr 2011 by the Heritage Provider Network (HPN), a managed care organization in California offering a $3 Million prize designed to develop a more accurate way to predict the likelihood of an individual’s future hospitalization.  HPN says the goal of the prize is “to develop a breakthrough algorithm that uses available patient data, including health records and claims data, to predict and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations.”  The challenge is to take datasets of de-identified patient claims data to develop algorithms and then test those algorithms. The data will be run through a predictive algorithm that is developed to identify patients who are at risk for hospital admissions.  Health care providers can develop new care plans and strategies to reach these patients proactively and reduce the number of unnecessary hospitalizations.  This will result in improved  health of patients while decreasing the cost of care. Incentives to innovate in healthcare be it from the public or the private sector is a big win.

There is a growing realization that data and predictive analytics and modeling will be a part of the answer to the cost, quality and access equation. Predictions that help avoid hospital admissions and re-admissions can make a huge difference. What are some other areas where data and technology can represent an absolute gold mine of potential to make a significant difference in healthcare?

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