Skip to main content
Getting Your Big Data into Shape this New Year

In my previous post, I talked about the hypothetical situation where your new doctor somehow knows about your two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, even though you haven’t told her. How did she know? The medical office acquired data about you, including purchase information from a cigarette store, and used that data to surprise you during the initial visit.

If you haven’t voluntarily given up this information, it will likely put you on the defensive. You might walk out of the office. You could even file a complaint, and rip them over social media. The practice will lose a patient and possibly tarnish its reputation. Medical regulators could even investigate the practice.

But does this mean that the office shouldn’t be making Big Data-driven decisions? Not necessarily. But it needs to align how it collects and uses Big Data. Organizations need to balance the best course of action that benefits both the patient and the practitioner without being Big Brother-ish or creepy.

Consider that the medical profession itself is all about data collection – or, should we call it, “data confession.” And it all (usually) starts with the new patient questionnaire, which can have a critical (some might argue overly weighted) impact on everything from diagnosis through treatment, potentially impacting the health of both the patient and the business. Even in today’s technology-abundant medical offices, much data is still collected on a piece of paper, and ultimately transferred to a database – and if the patient isn’t feeling well when he or she fills out that questionnaire, gaps in their medical history as well as biases towards over- or under-reporting certain data could be exaggerated.

Suppose that the doctor’s office started with a specific business goal in mind – drive stronger patient outcomes by streamlining data collection and implementing better decisions based on that data, using a patient-centric approach.

Imagine what would happen if critical patient data were collected electronically prior to the first visit, and analytics applied to give the doctor a much more informed view of the patient before any discussion commences. While the smoker may understate the amount of cigarettes smoked, other survey factors (e.g., indication of lack of exercise or use of blood pressure medications) could provide clues that this person isn’t very healthy, and might direct a particular set of interactions that create a more accurate patient view without being overly invasive.

In this case, given the factors indicated in the survey, the doctor might ask, “so you mention you occasionally smoke – have you ever been a heavy smoker?” The patient, perhaps feeling like an accurate response is less threatening in a one-to-one environment versus an electronic profile, confesses to “a habit I can’t break” discussion – triggering positive events such as a nicotine cessation program and the use of tracking devices to analyze (with patient consent, of course) blood pressure and physical activity to continually fine-tune treatment. A downloadable app can make the process even more personal, allowing for manual entry of dietary data, the ability to make appointments, or even do one-on-one consultations via a video link.

In this way, Big Data is used in a way that benefits the patient, practitioner and overall practice – without exposing the business to misusing acquired data (or absorbing costs of that data). In addition, data can be continually (and voluntarily) collected from the patient, not just at the point of service, but rather as a dynamic extension of his or her day-to-day activities and condition. By optimizing patient-preferred channels such as e-mail, devices, apps, or even phone calls, data collection is streamlined, and interactions are based on what the patient wants – not, as one might say, “what the doctor ordered.”

If you want to read more about the use of multichannel interactions driving better outcomes, our Insights white paper Satisfying Customers and Regulators: Five Imperatives (login required)is a must-read. And while this piece focuses on health care, the personalization concepts included can help organizations in virtually any industry rethink how they engage with their customers to increase satisfaction and bottom line results.

related posts