Big data critical to health care industry, feds not quite prepared

Big data could have a significant impact on health care in the coming years, potentially improving population health management and preventative care, but federal agencies are still wading around in the beginning stages of adoption, according to a recent MeriTalk report.

With the rise of mobile health and machine to machine technologies, there will be a big influx of data over the next couple of years, and most of those who were surveyed agree that big data will be critical in the coming years.

The report, underwritten by EMC Corp., had a number of key findings, including:

  • 63 percent of respondents said that big data will help track and manage population health, with 62 percent saying that it will improve patient care within military and VA health systems, and 60 percent saying it would help advance preventative care.
  • Fifty-nine percent of federal executives working at agencies with a health care-related mission said that their mission objectives, in the next five years, will depend on leveraging big data successfully.
  • One in three said that their agency has launched at least one big data initiative.
  • 35 percent use big data to improve patient care, 31 percent use it to reduce costs, 28 percent use it to improve health outcomes and 22 percent have increased early detection because of it.

But then there was some bad news:

Fewer than one in five say that their agency is prepared to work with big data

Only 35 percent have invested in IT systems and solutions to optimize data processing, with only 29 percent saying that they have trained IT professionals to manage and analyze big data, and only 29 percent saying that they have educated senior management on big data issues.

The good news is that 53 percent plan to implement machine to machine technologies within the next two years, and nine out of 10 respondents believe that this will result in a positive impact across the health care industry.

To help break down its findings, MeriTalk released an infographic containing the results of their report.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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