Big Data is a buzz word that has created a lot of noise across the healthcare industry, but that’s exactly what it can be—noise. The industry needs to stop thinking of Big Data in terms of the enigmatic, undefined, and unachievable holy grail, and start thinking about how we can tackle the data that our Electronic Health Records (EHR) collect, how to aggregate data from sources outside of the EHR, how to cleanse and analyze that data, and how to achieve interoperability, getting us closer to the Triple Aim—improved population health, reduced healthcare costs, and better patient experiences. Henceforth, this paper will refer to data collected from EHRs and other data sources that is used for Population Health Management (PHM), research, and public health improvement as Population Data—an attainable, tangible tool in achieving PHM.
In our last white paper, Population Health: Laying the Foundation of Healthcare’s Next Generation of Care, we talked about the four pillars of PHM—data control and governance, population management and risk stratification, care management, and patient engagement. Aggregating, cleansing, and using Population Data starts with data control and governance, but its function crosses over into each pillar, offering the healthcare industry powerful tools to improve population health, deliver better care, and improve costs. Applying data governance and standardization across healthcare organizations, safely sharing that information, and utilizing data analytics tools to use Population Data in an impactful way is a springboard for PHM.