How We Stop Underutilizing Data In Healthcare

We spoke to Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Eric Fiolkoski of DaVita about data, tech and their futures in healthcare

18May

In anticipation of our Big Data & Analytics in Healthcare Summit, this May 22-23, I have been talking to a lot of the speakers in order to understand their varying perspectives on the future of data and analytics in healthcare. It seems like there isn't an area in the field which isn't being worked on by some team of visionaries looking to completely revolutionize the way we care for each other.

In exploration of this, I spoke to two professionals from that tech/healthcare crossroad. Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood is the Lead for Clinical Operations and Business Analytics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Mahmood is responsible for leading clinical analytics innovation and bringing together data science, machine learning and business closer together across the institute to embed analytics in patient care and foster a data-centric culture.

Eric Fiolkoski, on the other hand, is Director of Data Science for DaVita, Inc (one of the largest kidney care providers in the United States). He leads the development and deployment of computationally intensive predictive models for DaVita’s fee-for-outcome, integrated patient care management (VillageHealth and DaVita Health Solutions).

Despite both working with data in healthcare, they possess two different perspectives of the industry and it was interesting to see where their opinion converged and where they differed.

Do you think wearables will play a larger role in healthcare or are they too intrusive? Is healthcare equipped to exploit the data produced by wearables and other IoT devices?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

Wearables are playing a significant role and aren’t too intrusive if they are already being used in clinical trials, are FDA approved and are HIPAA compliant. Every organization has a different capability to utilize wearables' data and how much they can utilize this data but healthcare needs more tools and innovative use cases to utilize this data.

Eric Fiolkoski

These are two very different questions. I do think wearables will play a larger role in healthcare as patients are becoming more tech savvy and we are learning about what they need, how they use these devices, and what is most impactful. That said, no, I do not think we are equipped to intake, mine, and develop actionable insights from the data today.

Do you think data, in general, is being utilized effectively in healthcare? What can be done to better the situation?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

Data is siloed, heavily regulated and can’t possibly be used in any efficient way. Innovation is limited in healthcare compared to other industries due to the challenges around data access among other. We need to open it all up to everyone, remove proprietary ownership mentality.

Eric Fiolkoski

We believe data is massively underutilized. Few companies are even fully leveraging claims data, let alone integrating with clinical and consumer data and turning it into actionable insights for care model and personal health transformation.

How do you balance the concerns patients have for their confidentiality against the need for data to innovate?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

Patients usually don’t have concerns. If they did, studies with informed consent would never happen. It’s the lack of access to useful data for providers to experiment with new processes, not the lack of data itself, that is killing innovation.

Eric Fiolkoski

This will improve as confidence in security improves (e.g., we now have no problem putting our credit cards online which seemed crazy only 5 years ago) and the use cases become clearer and more impactful.

Do you feel there needs to be more regulation or less when it comes to utilizing healthcare data?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

Careful deregulation and free-market approaches have made all other industries more efficient, so why would healthcare be different? FDA has already understood this and is loosening regulations to let innovation take root.

Eric Fiolkoski

All of us in the field feel like it should be less but that needs to be balanced with appropriate compliance and privacy oversight, the complexity of which is often underappreciated.

How much use of visualizations in your enterprise? Do you find it an effective way of communicating ideas to the less technically minded?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

A well-designed visualization is a launch point for analytics. At Dana Farber, our big focus is on visualization and we use Tableau as a visualization tool for clinical, financial and research analytics. We have seen a successful adoption among all users across the institute including clinical, research and administrative staff along with analytics super users. You know it’s effective when people wonder how they ever lived without it, behaviors change and there are incremental, continuous improvements.

Eric Fiolkoski

We are addicted to PowerPoint but do an awful job of truly visualizing data in the way it can be done. It would be so much more impactful at the point of care if we could harness this capability.

What technologies do you foresee changing the way you use data over the next five years? What strategies do you have in place to prepare yourself to use them?

Dr. Sadiqa Mahmood

Some aspects of AI and blockchain after the hype subsides and the actual innovation emerges. Also, there are promising data-driven advances in genomics leading to drug discovery and development, and precision medicine. Need for meaningful data remains one of the biggest challenges. DNAnexus among others is creating platforms to address this challenge. Most in the medical community have embraced the promise of precision medicine, others have voiced the challenges associated with transforming clinical care. Other challenges include ethics, social and legal issues. In addition, drugs that are developed to target a person's genetic or molecular characteristics are expensive and still need to figure out reimbursements.

Eric Fiolkoski

Wearables, personalized health data, genomics, consumer data. We are still implementing basic infrastructure so I would characterize us as somewhat behind and not at that level of planning. 


For similar insights into how companies are improving patient outcomes with data analytics, attend our Big Data & Analytics in Healthcare Summit happening in Philadelphia, May 22-23.

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