This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

In yesterday’s post about The Future of…The Connected Healthcare System, I talked a lot about healthcare data and the importance of that data. So, I won’t rehash those topics in this post. However, that post will serve as background for why I believe healthcare has no clue about what big data really is and what it will mean for patients.

Healthcare Big Data History
If we take a quick look back in the history of big data in healthcare, most people will think about the massive enterprise data warehouses that hospitals invested in over the years. Sadly, I say they were massive because the cost of the project was massive and not because the amount of data was massive. In most cases it was a significant amount of data, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The other massive part was the massive amount of work that was required to acquire and store the data in a usable format.

This is what most people think about when they think of big data in healthcare. A massive store of a healthcare system’s data that’s been taken from a variety of disparate systems and normalized into one enterprise data warehouse. The next question we should be asking is, “what were the results of this effort?”

The results of this effort is a massive data store of health information. You might say, “Fantastic! Now we can leverage this massive data store to improve patient health, lower costs, improve revenue, and make our healthcare organization great.” That’s a lovely idea, but unfortunately it’s far from the reality of most enterprise data warehouses in healthcare.

The reality is that the only outcome was the enterprise data warehouse. Most project plans didn’t include any sort of guiding framework on how the enterprise data warehouse would be used once it was in place. Most didn’t include budget for someone (let alone a team of people) to mine the data for key organization and patient insights. Nope. Their funding was just to roll out the data warehouse. Organizations therefore got what they paid for.

So many organizations (and there might be a few exceptions out there) thought that by having this new resource at their fingertips, their staff would somehow magically do the work required to find meaning in all that data. It’s a wonderful thought, but we all know that it doesn’t work that way. If you don’t plan and pay for something, it rarely happens.

Focused Data Efforts
Back in 2013, I wrote about a new trend towards what one company called Skinny Data. No doubt that was a reaction to many people’s poor experiences spending massive amounts of money on an enterprise data warehouse without any significant results. Healthcare executives had no doubt grown weary of the “big data” pitch …read more