The big data evolution in healthcare

Barry Silverman

Most experts agree that the healthcare industry itself will be transformed once data begins to play a more integral role in patient outcomes, patient care, and managing the overall operations of healthcare providers. Increased accessibility to growing data sets will revolutionize the industry’s ability to anticipate, prevent, and treat illnesses. But for healthcare brands to utilize this data in order to grow their businesses, technological readiness is key. Historically, the industry has done an “abysmal job of being able to integrate and synthesize clinical and claim information,” according to Joseph M. Zubretsky, Senior Executive Vice President of National Business at Aetna. “Now we are creating tools and capabilities that allow both kinds of information to be combined, read, interpreted, and acted on. But organizations must have the basic infrastructure.”

Given the opportunities and the challenges, we have noted three movements in the industry, all driven by the advanced use of data, which should have significant impact in the next five years:

• Progressive consumer brands are evolving the healthcare space
• Technology is opening up unprecedented growth opportunities for healthcare brands
• Data is empowering both patients and providers, across the full care continuum

Progressive consumer brands are evolving the healthcare space

Many people might be surprised if you told them that both Google and Apple are making impressive forays into the healthcare space. In actuality, their mastery of data and strong equity in the consumer market makes them ideal disruptors in an industry looking for change.

Apple’s HealthKit is enabling hospitals to incorporate data from patients’ mobile devices into their electronic health records. The technology connects all the data derived from various health and fitness apps to provide a more holistic picture of personal well-being. Hospitals are connecting Apple’s HealthKit system to their electronic health records to improve their insights into patients’ total health.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline recently announced an agreement with Verily Life Sciences to form a new company focused on the research, development, and commercialization of bioelectronic medicines. This would be ordinary news in the healthcare industry if not for the fact that Verily Life Sciences is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Google’s move into the healthcare space is not surprising when you connect the dots between the most progressive data company in the world and an industry that is transforming itself as a result of big data’s influence. Google’s foray into this space doesn’t stop there—its artificial intelligence (AI) lab, DeepMind, acquired in 2013, is also working with the NHS to help physicians detect illness early.

In each case, we are seeing large technology companies leveraging their progressive approaches to data analytics to set the course for the future of healthcare. This is not surprising, considering the value the brands and the healthcare category receive. The brands are able to expand their services into a dynamic category that is in need of disruptive technologies. In addition, they are able to ingrain a more human quality into their brands by expanding into the business of personal care.

Technology is opening up unprecedented growth opportunities for healthcare brands

There are numerous doors being opened for healthcare brands as a result of new technology and data playing a more important role in the delivery of care. The first opportunity is for the brand to become an aggregator of information, representing itself as a forum for data collection and dissemination. In essence, data becomes the currency and the centerpiece of the business. A Breakthrough Brand making waves in this area is iCarbonX. It’s leveraging the best biotechnology and using AI to analyze and apply human life data. The brand has partnered with institutions, insurance companies, hospitals, and more to further its proposition of creating the “first intelligent robot” that offers private health management and personalized advice.

Another growth opportunity is harnessing the integration of data-enabled technology in order to amplify or strengthen an existing value proposition. We see this happening with the Cleveland Clinic, which has built its value proposition around four key pillars:

• Clinical excellence
• Patient experience
• Innovation
• Wellness

Big data is a critical component to the brand’s success in delivering on these pillars. One way Cleveland Clinic is doing this is through its Clarity Repository, a structured data storehouse that permits mining and acquisition and generates reports on electronic medical record (EMR) data that makes analysis easy and insulates the live online systems that clinicians use daily. In many ways, the Cleveland Clinic’s unique position in the market is dependent on its ability to elevate data as a core strategic tool within the organization.

Data is empowering both patients and providers, across the full care continuum

Aetna’s Zubretsky recently commented: “We need to determine how to best share relevant data and information, such as evidenced-based treatment protocols and costs of care, with patients and their families, empowering them to participate in clinical decision-making.” This type of patient empowerment, combined with predictive analytics is making it possible for physicians to treat patients before they get to the hospital and also gives patients the confidence to take control of their own care.

In June of 2016, Nutrino, Inc. announced a partnership with Medtronic plc that will give people with diabetes an individualized picture of how their daily food intake and other measures impact glucose levels. This is a data-driven app that improves the overall technology of remote patient monitoring and begins to shift care into the home, rather than the hospital. Technology is driving patient care away from the hospital and the doctor’s office while making pre and post visits more important to the well-being of the patient and the efficiency of the care provider.

As data becomes more accessible and devices smarter, healthcare brands will be uniquely positioned to disrupt the current market and grow along with their tech partners. These opportunities are not without inherent challenges, such as infrastructure limitations, protecting patient privacy, and the difficulty of collecting data from fragmented sources. But as brands overcome these hurdles, we will see a very different industry in the next few years.

Each of these new developments will lead to better patient care and a more efficient system designed to reward quality instead of quantity. Going forward, brands in the healthcare space will need to position themselves as an enabler of quality care, rather than a provider of products or services. This new focus on quality will most likely be driven by advanced technologies and new uses of data that will help practitioners understand every point in the care continuum and how to be effective, efficient, and profitable, while always keeping the patient in mind.

Strategy Director, InterbrandHealth