To Liberate Healthcare Data, Dip into Data Lakes

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Data Lakes

Guest post by Randy Delgado

The other day I was talking to a healthcare CIO about the trend of data liberation or what I like to call Open Data. Open Data is combining the abundance of external data with data from your own corporate systems to glean insights that will enable your company to grow, enhance operations and deflect disruption.

I didn’t need to remind the healthcare executive how behind the trend she was. She knew. Nor, did I need to convince her to move forward. She’s facing plenty of pressure from senior management, customers and partners to break down barriers to big data innovation.

What she needed to understand was how to free her organization’s data in light of the regulatory, technical and cost challenges.

Experimenting with big data in the healthcare industry isn’t as difficult as many healthcare executives think. First of all, saying that we’re restricted by regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is no longer a valid excuse. There are proven approaches to de-identify data so that it can be used.

Secondly, now that data storage and technology is cheap, information is vast and newer database technologies don’t require an agreed upon schema up front, discovery analytics is finally possible.

By using a refined approach to data management called “data lakes,” healthcare organizations have the ability to capture, access, analyze, use and apply any data from any source, from anywhere and use it to bolster their business.

With the data lakes approach, data is “dumped” into a repository and no up-front data tagging is required. Companies employ data scientists who are capable of making sense of untamed data as they wade through it. Most healthcare organizations can find people in their own organizations with a knack for exploratory, ad-hoc analytics. Those employees can find correlations and insights within the data as they get to know it.

Big data has the potential to reveal a rich world of information that can change a company’s trajectory. If you’re a healthcare executive, begin your big data quest by identifying areas where big data could potentially help to solve a business problem or seize an opportunity. You would be amazed by what you can learn about possible new markets, business models, process inefficiencies, or ways to enhance relationships with customers.

Healthcare organizations think big data comes with big costs, but it doesn’t take a lot of upfront investment to explore possibilities and justify additional dollars. Taking that finding to production and implementation is another dimension and it will take time and cost. But, big data experimentation will enable you to foresee the end result with much greater ease than a traditional data warehousing approach.

In my conversations with healthcare executives, I get the sense that they hold outdated notions about data management that limits their imaginations and prevents them from taking action. When data is freed, organizations have the capacity to innovate like never before. However, dramatic changes don’t need to happen over night. Dipping a toe into the data lakes approach to data management is the ideal way for the healthcare industry to catch up with the open data movement.

This post also appeared on the PwC Emerging Technology Blog.

Image shared by Hayden Petrie.

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