Inmar Inc. | January 28, 2015

Starting a year like 2015 is really exciting. There are big challenges ahead, but they bring opportunities. This will be a year of great change, both in meeting government mandates and dealing with the wave of new technology that interconnects patients and devices and how the industry will respond to meet these rapid-cycle changes.

Looking at the Top 10 Business Analytics Predictions for 2015 released by the International Institute of Analytics (as published in Health Data Management), I see some real opportunities. Three items on the list get my attention:

  • Storytelling will be the hot new job in analytics as executives seek to understand data in the context of business.
  • The Internet of Things will drive the emergence of "The Analytics of Things."
  • Companies will double their investment in generating new and unique data.

Storytelling This is where we live at Inmar. If you've read my commentaries before, you'll know I talk constantly about seeking opportunities to gather data at every possible point. Of course, there's more to it than that — the real gain in data collecting is divulging the stories they tell; what gives you answers to problems, guides planning and reveals new solutions.

With the advent of wearable tech and smartphone apps analytics are everything. There's huge opportunity to improve care and control costs as this massive wave of data builds toward us. Analytics take all that data and paint the full portrait of patient habits and lifestyles.

This is just one of the reasons I'm excited about Inmar's acquisition of The Clarus Agency, a top-notch mobile app developer. Combining Inmar's data gathering and analytics capabilities with their ability to create the patient interface will enable us to help our clients gain previously unrealized knowledge that will drive a depth of patient engagement that has not been possible before.

Emergence of the "Analytics of Things" Every week, it seems more people and devices become connected through the Internet and interconnected to each other. As data endpoints and intersections develop and that data gets analyzed at each point before it's passed along, the possibilities grow exponentially for what we can do for people, both as patients and consumers.

A recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, "Top 10 Health Industry issues of 2015," indicates that physicians and consumers are ready to embrace high-tech, personal medical devices. In the study, 52 percent of physicians surveyed indicate they're comfortable with mobile apps and devices monitoring vital signs. If that gets your attention, consider that 86 percent of responding clinicians said they believe mobile apps will become important to physicians for patient health management over the next five years.

Investment in new and unique data An understanding of data begets new data. As analytics tell the stories behind the data wave, we will learn and gain new understanding.

We can't just issue the order to go get new data. We have to make the intentional decisions to understand not only what's in front of us, but we also have to ask what else it tells us. This is where exciting new possibilities begin to spawn. As the picture unfolds, health systems, providers, pharmacies, retailers, manufacturers and others will all start to drive deeper understanding.

Seeking deeper understanding of data will force us to define and seek new data sets. As we learn more about patients, the industry as a whole will have a new opportunity to better understand and manage the highest-cost patients as we are challenged to bring down cost.

The PwC study also points to the need for this investment, with the big issue being "dual eligibles," patients who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The ability to identify the highest-cost patients and then engage them to connect to services that will improve their care, med adherence and ultimately, their outcomes, will be a critical development in cost control.

For example, if the data sets show that people with diabetes don't eat the right foods because it's difficult to shop for their needs, the next step is to find out why. So we ask them more questions about expense, time and ability to shop, knowledge about what to buy, and what they believe about the kind of shopping and cooking they need.

The data generated from those simple questions alone can forge partnerships between health systems and food retailers; perhaps health-driven shopping and discount programs for diabetics that guide them to the right foods and make it easier for them to shop; lists of affordable alternatives, or even diabetes-defined online shopping services. As those programs and partnerships grow, we will see a cascading effect in the data they generate and the further understanding needed to sustain and improve them.

These are some weighty issues that may look daunting to those in the industry who haven't yet engaged in this conversation. But the opportunity lies in making that engagement. The industry can't afford not to. Forward-thinking companies and health systems are already exploring. Those who do will emerge as industry leaders. Whether your choice is to lead or to follow, you can't avoid riding the wave of new data.

Where will you be in this conversation as 2015 unfolds? Let me know by sharing your thoughts or ideas in the comments section below.