Data is driving today’s connected world, and this is particularly true in healthcare. According to the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), more than 1 billion clinical documents are produced in the U.S. each year. With this tremendous number of documents being produced annually, there is a huge opportunity to use this information to make healthcare more efficient and effective. However, much of this data is currently being underutilized.

New companies focused on digital health and digital health data are working to seize the opportunity. Research from Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health, suggests 2017 was a record year for digital health, with venture funding approaching $6 billion. The top funded value proposition in 2017—representing $1.6 billion across 41 deals—were companies delivering consumer health information.

Data analytics will become increasingly important for organizations within the healthcare realm as the space moves toward more patient-centric models and as the IoT (Internet of Things) becomes more widely accepted and adopted. Amidst many uncertainties in the current healthcare landscape, including growing demands from consumers and the shift to value-based care, an investment in analytics could help organizations meet—even exceed—these needs.

In a survey of health insurance organizations, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found analytics are considered a critical asset for long-term strategies in this sector. Deloitte reports two of every three respondents say analytics are extremely important to their organizations as a competitive differentiator, and projected investments reflect this reality, with 33% of respondents reporting they plan to substantially increase their spending on analytics within the next few years. Leading drivers of analytics investments, according to the survey, include meeting financial goals, such as reducing medical and operating costs. In fact, for health insurance providers, Deloitte says plans that do not take advantage of data and analytics risk being left behind.

Across the space, data science is becoming more important and more accessible. Providers of data science in healthcare are working toward making data sharing and collaboration more affordable and efficient. VEDA Data Solutions, for instance, offers a self-calibrating, self-updating automated provider directory system called ProviderSync. The solution leverages AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning to give companies the benefits of an in-house data science team without actually needing to have one.

By failing to fully leverage big data, health organizations are losing out on the ability to gain critical insights. However, by harnessing data and developing a data-science strategy, organizations and the care providers within these organizations can use data to make better, more efficient decisions that lead to improved healthcare outcomes. In healthcare, where the ability to make timely decisions can mean life or death for a patient, finding ways to fully harness health data is the critical next step in delivering quality healthcare.

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