I went with a less provocative title this time because my last blog post
evidently incited political flame wars. In this post, I hope to avoid
that by detailing exactly how Big Data can help our healthcare system
in a nonpartisan way. =)
First, lets decompose the problem a bit.
Our healthcare system is still (mostly) based on capitalism: more patients + more visits = more money. Within such a system, it is not in the best interest of healthcare providers to have healthy patients. Admittedly, this is a pessimistic view, and doctors and providers are not always prioritizing financial gain. Minimally however, at a macro-scale there exists a conflict of interest for some segment of the market, because not all healthcare providers profit entirely from preventative care.
Behavior:Right now, with a few exceptions, everyone pays the same for healthcare. Things are changing, but broadly speaking, there are no financial incentives to make healthy choices. We are responsible only for a fraction of the medical expenses we incur. That means everyone covered by my payer (the entity behind the curtain that actually foots the bills) is helping pay for the medical expenses I may rack up as a result of my Friday night pizza and beer binges.
Government:Finally, the government is trying. They are trying really hard. Through transparency, reporting, and compliance, they have the correct intentions and ideas to bend the cost curve of healthcare. But the government is the government, and large enterprises are large enterprises. And honestly, getting visibility into the disparate systems of any large single large enterprise is difficult (ask any CIO). Imagine trying to gain visibility into thousands enterprises, all at once. It's daunting: schematic disparities, messy data, ETL galore.
Again, this is a pessimistic view and there are remedies in the works. Things like high deductible plans are making people more aware of their expenses. Payers are trying to transition away from fee-for-service models. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fee-for-service). But what do these remedies need to be effective? You guessed it. Data. Mounds of it.