Analytics to Make Difference in Health Care

Michael Vizard

Thanks to some friendly incentives that are being provided by the federal government under the auspices of health care reform, health care organizations now have incentives to be proactive about identifying health care threats to various segments of the population.

Broadly known as "accountable care organizations," various groups and organizations are not only tracking the overall state of health care, but they also have put into place performance metrics and budget tools as part of a comprehensive effort to lower health care costs.

From an IT perspective, the whole concept of accountable care is the perfect recipe for analytics. That's why, this week, IBM partnered with Premier Healthcare Alliance to create a new platform for Premier Healthcare to share analytics information with health care organizations in its network.

The basic concept is that Premier Healthcare has access to vast amounts of data that health care organizations can leverage to identify trends that would identify emerging health care trends and issues.

Ed Macko, director and CTO for IBM Life Sciences and Healthcare Solutions, says Premier Healthcare is going to build a data warehouse using IBM software and hardware, including the master data management software that IBM picked up from its acquisition of Initiate Systems, and the Smart Analytics appliance that IBM rolled out last year.

Randy Thomas, vice president of integrated product management for Premier Healthcare, says this is the first time that any organization has attempted to use the data it gathers to proactively enhance the health of specific segments of the overall population.

Historically, says Thomas, the health care industry has tended to measure things in silos. By working with its partners, Premier Healthcare expects to provide a service that can analyze enough volume of data to identity, and then ultimately correct, health care issues before they become a major problem for any given population or region of the country.

Obviously, there is an argument to be made that this kind of analytics application should have been around long before this. But as with most things related to health care, there is a myriad of financial and political issues that all come to bear.

The good news is that applications like this are finally being developed with an eye towards preventing health care issues, rather than simply trying to make money on treating people long after their illnesses have become another drain on an already fragile system.

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