Looking Ahead: Translating Big Data into Better Healthcare

“Data can be used for good or for evil; the evil people may have a head start on us,” began moderator Jay Want. It is not a business in and of itself; rather, the business is in extracting meaning.

Arijit Sengupta, CEO of BeyondCore, Inc., agreed. Analysis is finding the things that matter, he said. Everyone can do analysis—the harder part is analyzing across the vast number of variables and picking out what really matters. Software applications can be used to make the process easier by filtering the information before the humans step in and decide where they want to dig, thus democratizing the ability to analyze data. Many such applications, including BeyondCore 3.0, are free for nonprofit organizations.

Niall Brennan of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) likewise observed that modern software is easier to use than before and is making more data available to more people. “It’s become cool to be passionate about data,” he said. At CMS the volume of information is staggering, at more than 300 billion right now and growing every day, but real-time data exchanges—what everyone is hoping for—are still a long way away. The key will be cultivating a culture of data, Brennan said, that is, you need to want to look at, analyze, and ask questions. He recommended starting with what your community needs and then ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve and how you can apply data to understand the situation.

The questions Joshua Rosenthal of RowdMap, Inc., wanted to pose focused more on the business questions, or “taking what you do and wrapping it up in a reasonable way.” He led attendees through some highlights of his “Healthcare Entrepreneurs Bootcamp,” beginning with asking the urgent question, “Are we doing something that has value in the market?” Most startups don’t get funding, he warned, so any organization wanting to make use of “big data” needs to know if it can do the public good it wants to do while getting paid for it. “Before you do a pitch,” he said, “you need to figure out what your business is. What is the need you are solving? What data are you using? What is the output? What lessons have your learned?”