Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Healthcare Leveraging Big Data for Social Business

By Penny Schlyer, IBM Software Group

This was  originally published on IBM's Social Business Insights blog on September 26th, 2012.

Healthcare has become a social business. The evolution towards social media, consumer expectations for quality and value in healthcare, and the urgent need to get healthcare costs under control are transforming the way healthcare is obtained, delivered and paid for. Social business strategies can reach consumers and make a real impact on the health of our society and also help healthcare organizations build flourishing businesses.

I found some interesting statistics and trends from Pew Research, AHRQ and McKinsey around cell phone usage, demographics and chronic illness that help prove the case:

  •  55% of American cell phone users go online using their phones, a 24 % increase from 2009.
  •  Nearly half of young adults (18-29 year olds) do most of their online browsing on their phone.
  •  40-50% of all black and Hispanic cell internet users do most of their online browsing on their phone, double the proportion of whites.
  •  An estimated 150M patients in the U.S. in 2010 were chronically ill, 25.6M have diabetes
  •  Nearly 11% of the non-white population, or 2.74M is suffering from diabetes (whites = 6.2%)
We have an opportunity in healthcare to be smarter and more targeted in patient management and leverage big data and social media to do it.

The challenge:
We know that healthcare data is very fragmented and all too often the patient is treated for a specific incident in time as opposed to consistent care over time. There are also issues of integration, patient privacy, secure access, liability and other things that come along with data sharing.

In order to improve patient health and outcomes, especially for chronically ill, we must evolve to a patient-centered system. Clearly this is not a new thought or notion, nor is it easy. The difference today is that we have new and cost effective technology that reaches from the systems infrastructure all the way through to the end-user consumer with interactive mobile applications that can be leveraged to impact healthcare.

The opportunity:
We now have the ability to capture all kinds of data we couldn’t capture before -- structured and unstructured “big data” from electronic medical records, correspondence among providers, patients and insurers, labs/tests, social media sites, medical devices and monitors.  Natural language processing, text analytics and streaming analytics can be used to find the relevant information, aggregate it, make sense of it and analyze it to create highly valuable insight for more personalized care and better outcomes.
 Social business solutions help healthcare providers and insurers provide better, more personalized care and also differentiate their service to become more competitive.

The proof:
Watch this video of Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, who created a private online community for children with diabetes and their families to communicate with their doctors, get access to their medical information as well as relevant information for their illness, and join communities of other like patients and track vital information about glucose levels, diet and activity. Patients can better manage their chronic condition and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas can provide more personalized care and treatment.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is delivering a more personalized member experience and saving money at the same time by identifying high risk patients and bringing together demographics, benefits plan, historical claims information and evidence based rules to create customized alerts and recommendations. Taking it beyond the basic use of finding a provider, checking on a claim or validating coverage, the personalized member portal creates alerts and reminders that will help a member manage his health in an effective manner. Web traffic has increased by 40%, the number of members registering at the member portal has increased by 26%. Among the members who were surveyed about the personalized member portal experience, 76% receiving periodic health assessment (PHA) alert said that they would take a PHA, 61% receiving brand vs. generic Rx alert said that they will consider generic drugs and 81% of members surveyed said that they would like to receive personalized healthcare reminders and are likely to visit the personalized member portal to take control of their health.

As a society we are getting smarter about how we approach many things. These examples demonstrate how innovative healthcare organizations have successfully implemented social business to improve the health of patients. Many organizations are quickly moving in this direction. The 2012 CEO study found that 68% of healthcare CEOs believe that they will use social media to engage their clients, and two-thirds plan dramatic improvements in both internal and external collaboration, In short, healthcare CEOs are planning a significant increase in the use of social technology to connect individually with their consumers.