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Ohio Start-Up Aims To Harness "Big Data" Of Health Care

The healthcare industry is undergoing huge changes as the Affordable Care Act introduces new business models that reward efficiencies. The shift to ‘outcome-based payments’ has hospital administrators experimenting with new tools to help cut costs. From member station WKSU, Jeff St.Clair looks at how a Cleveland start-up is harnessing ‘big data’ in the new era of healthcare. Big Data - according to Charlie Lougheed –is all about the three V’s: volume, velocity, and variety. “So if you think about an organization like Google, they have massive amounts of volume coming at them. If you think about a large bank, there are a lot of transactions coming through, that’s velocity, it’s coming at you very quickly. If you think about a healthcare org. there’s a huge degree of variety in the data.â€? Lougheed is president of Explorys, a Cleveland start-up that has created a Google-type tool for the medical industry to help make sense of the tsunami of data sloshing around.

From a volume standpoint today we’ve curated 85 billion clinical, financial, and operational data facts, and those are the data facts that make-up the process of care.

Every time you see your family doctor, or take a drug, or enter the hospital you generate potentially useful data that, taken together, could lead to better treatment for you, and a way for hospital administrators to streamline care. Lougheed says Explorys uses anonymous patient information in the aggregate to do basic research to "more or less have a conversation with your data, because that’s what’s always been missing within large sets of healthcare data, it’s taken a long time to ask a basic question.â€? Explorys got its start three years ago from an idea hatched by a Cleveland Clinic physician who mined the hospital’s database to uncover trends and insights for his practice. The company incubated in a suite at the Clinic’s business development arm before landing last November in the spacious digs of the former MOCA galleries and hiring 85 employees. Cleveland Clinic Innovations director Chris Coburn says Explorys is a response to enormous changes happening in the healthcare industry.

What we’re heading in to is an era where information management is going to dominate healthcare - the groups, the companies, the hospitals that best manage data are going to come out on top.

Explorys CEO Steve McHale says the value of big data comes from the Affordable Care Act’s shift from piece-meal payments, or ‘fee-for-service’ patient care, to a lump-sum, outcome-based system. McHale says today’s hospital leaders are facing a steep learning curve. “They need to now prepare for new payment models and new care models, the fee for service model will become a thing of the past. Now the key is, how do you transform yourself into that new model without going under.â€? And like the airlines, banking, and other industries, he says healthcare is undergoing rapid consolidation.

There’s not going to be all these little mom and pop systems and hospitals. It’s going to come down to mega-systems we think.

McHale predicts about a-third of hospitals will be gone, or absorbed in mergers over the next seven years. Right now Explorys counts 13 hospital chains in its network, including the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, Akron General, Summa and Catholic Health Partners. The network tracks 31 million patients and 120 hospitals, and 85 billion data points. McHale says analytic tools like Explorys could give providers an edge in the new era of slimmer profit margins, and higher risk. Big data-driven healthcare is his prescription for hospitals hoping to survive this coming revolution.