Big Data Proves Alluring to Federal IT Pros

One in three federal agencies focused on health care research and care delivery say their agency has successfully launched at least one big data initiative, a new report finds.

Federal health care executives are finding that big data is helping them manage and improve patient care. According to a report from MeriTalk and EMC, 63 percent of such executives say big data will help track and manage population health more efficiently, 62 percent say big data will significantly improve patient care within military health and Veterans Affairs (VA) systems, and 60 percent say big data will enhance the ability to deliver preventive care.

One in three federal agencies focused on health care research and care delivery says their agency has successfully launched at least one big data initiative—35 percent use big data to improve patient care, 31 percent are reducing care costs, 28 percent are improving health outcomes and 22 percent are increasing early detection.

More than half (59 percent) of federal executives working in agencies with a health care-related mission say that in five years, fulfilling their agency's mission objectives will depend on successfully leveraging big data.

"Emerging mHealth [mobile health] and M2M [machine-to-machine] technology will together create a new healthcare data deluge, and tremendous opportunity to improve efficiency and patient care," Dan Dougherty, vice president of EMC Federal, said in a statement. "DoD [Department of Defense] delivers healthcare to nearly 10 million people through Tricare, and we know costs have been rising. Big Data analytics, mHealth, and M2M technology can make an impact in key areas including helping to more successfully manage chronic conditions with improved preventative care—monitoring and addressing symptoms before they become acute."

Feds anticipate M2M technologies will also have a significant impact. While just 15 percent of respondents say they have implemented M2M technologies today, 53 percent plan to do so within the next two years. Feds expect M2M technologies to have the greatest impact on improving patient care and remote patient monitoring.

According to the report, feds expect securing patient data to be the biggest challenge with M2M technologies. However, despite such challenges, nine out of 10 respondents expect M2M technologies and data to have positive impacts across the health care industry.

"Forty-seven percent of feds say the successful use of mHealth technologies and data has the potential to be more impactful than the discovery of penicillin," Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, said in a statement. "That's a real shot in the arm for improving federal healthcare."

Much work remains to be done, however. Fewer than one in five survey respondents said their agency is very prepared to work with big data, and few have invested in IT systems and solutions to optimize data processing (34 percent), trained IT professionals to manage and analyze big data (29 percent), or educated senior management on big data issues (29 percent).