Big Data Can Help Save Billions in Health Care Costs: McKinsey Report

Big data analytics tools along with patient lifestyle changes can help save the health care industry up to $450 billion, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

The health care IT industry can save up to $450 billion if they use big data analytics and patients make the right choices about their care and lifestyles, a recent report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. revealed.

These savings could amount to 12 to 17 percent of the $2.6 trillion baseline in U.S. health-related spending, the firm reported.

McKinsey & Company analysts Basel Kayyali, David Knott and Steve Van Kuiken posted an article in April based on a report, "The Big Data Revolution in Healthcare," released in January.

Combining use of big data with actions such as aspirin use by those at risk for coronary heart disease—or screening for cholesterol and hypertension—can reduce the total cost of care by more than $38 billion, the company reported.

McKinsey reported that a "fundamental mind-set shift" is essential as health care organizations need to recognize the value of big data and act on the information.

"Although these tools will continue to play an important role, stakeholders will only benefit from big data if they take a more holistic, patient-centered approach to value, one that focuses equally on health-care spending and treatment outcomes," according to McKinsey.

"Patients will not benefit from research on exercise, for example, if they persist in their sedentary lifestyles," the McKinsey analysts wrote. "And physicians may not improve patient outcomes if they refuse to follow treatment protocols based on big data and instead rely solely on their own judgment."

As the health care industry moves from a fee-for-service model to incentives for outcomes, doctors will need to rely on big data to be able to predict outcomes, Dave Dimond, chief strategist for industry solutions at EMC, recently told eWEEK.

"With these emerging shifts in the reimbursement landscape, health care stakeholders have an incentive to compile and exchange big data more readily," the McKinsey report stated. "If payers do not have access to outcomes information, for instance, they will not be able to determine the appropriate reimbursement levels."

To use big data to gain better value out of care and focus on treatment outcomes, McKinsey recommended encouraging patients to make healthy choices about diet and exercise, having caregivers coordinate care and access to patient information, selecting doctors based on their skills rather than job titles and developing new approaches to health care delivery.

In addition, for health care organizations to take advantage of the potential of big data, they'll need to train people to be data scientists, or workers equipped in machine learning and statistics, McKinsey noted.

By 2018, the United States will be short 2 million workers with skills for data analysis, data management and systems management, according to the report.

Big data tools enable the health care industry to gain transparency by making information in electronic health records (EHRs) usable, searchable and actionable, according to McKinsey.

"Health care stakeholders that take the lead in investing in innovative data capabilities and promoting data transparency will not only gain a competitive advantage but will lead the industry to a new era," McKinsey stated.

In addition to EHRs, other sources of big data include health insurance claims and pharmaceutical R&D.

Patient confidentiality concerns have led health care IT to lag behind retail and banking in big data, according to McKinsey.

With the potential for data breaches, providers and researches can de-identify patient records in databases and must be vigilant about potential data leaks, McKinsey reported.