Using predictive analytics to make the most use of Big Data

Is there a more intimidating phrase out there today than Big Data? It sounds like some sort of bully. Oh-oh, avert your eyes, Big Data is swaggering this way.

Not everybody is so easily cowed, of course. Maybe you’re one of those people who’s perfectly comfortable collecting masses of statistics that you can then collate and analyze until the cows come home. Maybe you actually like statistics. Maybe you’re forever formulating amazing algorithms in your head just for glee of it, while trimming the shrubbery or playing Xbox with the grandkids.

Whether or not you’re a Big Data-phobe like me, I encourage you to read this month’s cover story. It’s about predictive analytics — another phrase that sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it. But writer Karyn Hede does a wonderful job of explaining, in an unintimidating and practical way, how data can be harnessed to accomplish all manner of good in health care. It can help healthy people avoid illness, identify how the same diagnosis might mean different things for different people, how you can help discharged patients avoid readmission. From an operational standpoint, predictive analytics can let a hospital’s leaders know when a disease outbreak will bring a sudden influx of patients to the emergency department, when to call in more staff, which service lines to focus more attention on. Turns out Big Data is not such a bully after all.

Some health networks are developing models that others can adapt to make the most of predictive analytics. Vance Moore, senior vice president of operations at Mercy health system, explains: “We are trying to predict the future and stage human and physical assets near their point of need so we can service the customer much better and we become much more efficient in doing so, as well.”

As board members, you can help your hospital’s management understand the power of predictive analytics. Karyn’s article, "Predictive analytics is transforming health care," is a terrific place to start.