CHAPTER 6 Applying Big Data to Change Healthcare

At the risk of sounding completely out of the loop or flat-out crazy, there is no such thing as “big data.” Unfortunately, thanks to the trends driven in the business intelligence (BI) marketplace, I'm asked to talk about “big data” a lot. Let's start with how you define “big data” (and yes, I'm using the quotation marks on purpose). The most broadly accepted definition isn't really a definition at all but attributes of the data, such as “volume, velocity, and variety.” So, if you take that literally, we've always had “big data”; we've always had data that came in faster than we could consume it, at volumes that we didn't (or chose not to) integrate and with the variety that was beyond our reach.

I've worked with a lot of healthcare organizations and not one of them is actually using “big data.” I started asking around to those vendors that talk about “big data” and asked them to bring to bear case studies of organizations actively using “big data”; I got crickets. I'm not saying that it doesn't exist; I just can't prove that it does. It's like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. I say this in jest, sort of. I attempted to contact many organizations inside and outside of my network. In many cases they expressed interest but never returned a phone call or email to my follow-up requests. It could be that many of these organizations just didn't want to talk about what they were doing for the obvious competitive differentiation that ...

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