A PhD Researcher's QnA on #BigDataAnalytics (BDA) with a Healthcare CIO by Inder Davalur, @INDERDAVALUR & Nishita Mehta



Q1. Nishita Mehta: What is data’s role in healthcare & how do you see it influencing future health sector growth in India?

A. Inder Davalur: 

Big Data Analytics (BDA) will have a huge role in healthcare. Healthcare has been a latecomer to using IT as a tool but the future looks good. AI and its children – ML, IoT, and M2M are excellent candidates for advancing technology in healthcare. There is a real potential for technology to advance what I have termed “Connected Continuum of Care” in one of my blogs. This means that with wearables and other Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT), creating a biome where the patient and doctor/hospital are always connected would become a reality. Always-on Internet is the future and extending that to healthcare is a natural progression. With the price of Internet in India being one of the lowest in the world, we will be in an excellent position to incorporate technology in advancing healthcare delivery.   


Q2. Nishita Mehta: What are the unique challenges of working with clinical data? 

A. Inder Davalur: 

Doctors. Well, the challenge lies with the fact that most clinical data is unstructured. Doctors and hospitals are notorious for NOT wanting to follow standards when it comes to coding diagnoses and treatment. Adoption of DSM, Snomed, ICD codes is very spotty. Physicians complain about the inconvenience in the classifications and prefer to use free text in writing their diagnoses and treatment protocols. This creates a credibility gap in how clinical data can be meaningfully classified and analyzed for any useful prediction or AI driven protocols. EMR applications in India struggle with the similar challenges with physicians disagreeing on a set of standards in capturing and documenting clinical data. 

Q3. Nishita Mehta: Healthcare seems to be moving from the use of structured data to unstructured data. What is the difference between them when it comes to clinical utility & improving patient outcomes?

A. Inder Davalur:  

Healthcare has always suffered from a lack of structured data. Unstructured data creates several challenges in a software trying to classify the same diagnosis written with slight variations. The same fate awaits treatment plans. If medical coding (DSM, ICD etc.) is followed, it will enable any analytics software to make sense of the data and provide useful insights. With AI, structured data is still king. Predictability of an outcome for a set of patient symptoms, medications, prior history, genetic propensity, lifestyle habits would have a high accuracy 


Q4. Nishita Mehta:What do you think does a hospital need to implement Big Data solutions, i.e. Big Data Analytics Capabilities in terms of infrastructure and personnel requirement?

A. Inder Davalur:  

One of the major challenges a CIO or an IT head faces in a hospital is the lack of budget allocation for anything beyond the basic networking, computing and storage needs. Hospitals do not see the value in the data they currently possess most likely because they are more empirically driven rather than evidence driven. What this means is that hospitals and by nature the doctors who hold a sway over management decisions are more comfortable with their own decades of experience over some hotshot CIO trying to promote the idea of data mining and predictive value of patient outcomes based on past data. There is also a severe shortage of technology-rich personnel in hospitals due to the dull routine of maintenance of existing hardware and software rather than experimenting with new technology. The pay structure for IT personnel in hospitals is also woefully poor in comparison to the technology companies. All these factors combine to deter anyone who is driven to create in hospitals a digital core


Q5. Nishita Mehta: While Big Data can generate a plethora of interesting patterns or hypotheses, there is still a need of experts to analyze the results to confirm whether they make sense or merit further inquiry. Would you like to comment on this?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Absolutely. Right now, there is a paucity of people with skills to interpret and recommend action plans once an organization implements any sort of analytics software. Unlike other verticals, healthcare is lagging far behind in its focus on data interpretation and application in its business model. It might be a whole decade before hospitals wake up to the reality of meaningful interpretation of data and building an action plan around it


Q6. Nishita Mehta: What are the major drivers of Big Data Analytics in healthcare in India?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Have not seen much evidence of it. Perhaps some hospitals have ventured into some basic AI driven applications in specific areas such as pharmacy sales or patient wait times. Other than that, BDA is yet to catch up.

Q7. Nishita Mehta: What are the key benefits Indian hospitals will draw from implementation of Big Data Analytics? 


A. Inder Davalur:  

First and foremost, hospitals will get to see for themselves how poorly structured their data is. BDA for Indian hospitals can cover a better management of the following: 
  1. Sponsored
  2. Accounts Receivables
  3. Professional Fees
  4. Disposables and Consumables
  5. Pharmacy – Generic vs brand name consumption
  6. Targeted marketing
  7. Continuum of Care post-discharge
  8. Predictability of illness propensity from regular Health Check ups
  9. Results-oriented tasking for better output from employees
Besides these areas, hospitals can contribute tremendously to public health issues by sharing anonymized patient data with the State Health Department which can then study outbreaks and lifestyle disease patters in the general public. 

Q8. Nishita Mehta: How does Big Data Analytics help better decision-making & building disease understanding?


A. Inder Davalur:  

One of the most ignored areas is a deeper dive into results from investigations. Empirically speaking, the values considered “normal range” are never questioned. If a better study is conducted, what is normal for one cohort may not be so for another cohort. As an academic exercise, I had a simple deep analysis done to study the correlation between borderline values of lipid profile and any other element from a blood test. The result was a high (>70%) correlation between borderline lipid profile values and an elevated monocytes count. It turned out that among those who fell in this group, nearly 78% of them were later admitted for some coronary complication. The medical reason is that the monocyte levels are elevated when there is presence of a heart disease. Every one of these patient was merely getting a Health Check. Imagine if hospitals did such studies on a multitude of investigations routinely conducted for patients and conducted regular follow ups as a preventive measure


Q9. Nishita Mehta: One of the biggest concerns in healthcare is the rising costs. What potential solutions does Big Data offer for this problem in Indian context?


A. Inder Davalur:  

India’s population is now facing more mortalities from lifestyle diseases - Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) as opposed to communicable diseases. There is a great potential to flip the business model of the healthcare industry to go from disease management to health management. I have written blogs on this topic. The premise is very simple. Make it more profitable for hospitals to keep the public healthy than to treat them. If the payment structure is modified to increase the prices for health checkups and promoting healthy prophylactic therapy methods as opposed to coronary by-pass surgeries, it could completely change the paradigm. These prices can be graded based on age. All old age related treatments can receive higher prices; while treatments like a heart surgery for a 40-year old can be less. At the same time, therapeutic treatments for younger population geared for promoting good health can receive higher prices. A larger healthy population means a larger market for the hospitals. This ensures that the hospitals have a higher incentive to make the healthy population larger

Q10. Nishita Mehta: What would you highlight as being the major challenges today in developing & actually implementing Big Data Analytics capabilities to truly extract meaningful insights?


A. Inder Davalur:  

An urgent awareness creation among promoters and owners of hospitals of the benefits of investing in the technical hardware and personnel resources to build and maintain a BDA infrastructure. Without that awareness, IT costs are always seen as a sunken wasteful expenditure as opposed to an investment. There is nothing else lacking in this respect.

Q11. Nishita Mehta: Do most doctors now have a checklist for what they should be doing with patients with certain conditions? How does Big Data solution change what they are doing currently?

A. Inder Davalur:  

Hard to predict. Most clinical pathways and treatment protocols are traditionally empirically driven. It is hard to imagine a medical community to take notice of what BDA might reveal and radically change their protocols. That said, things have changed – take robotic surgery – and there is hope and a high degree of probability that medicine might be “data-powered” (my phrase over the more commonly used data-driven) offering the physician to choose to use such data-powered results wherever she finds it viable or desirables

Q12. Nishita Mehta: How do hospitals need to adapt to embrace the full potential of data-driven innovation?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Promoters and owners having a greater understanding of the power of data

Q13. Nishita Mehta: How important do you think Big Data Management & Analytics is right now to enhance healthcare in India?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Tremendously. With the technical resources at its disposal, India would be imprudent not to take full advantage of the benefits of BDA. Population health data is one of the most ignored among developing nations. India would do extremely well to develop and use BDA for advancing population health

Q14. Nishita Mehta: What do you see as the main emerging opportunities for hospitals from greater adoption of Big Data Analytics?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Connected Continuum of Care (a phrase I first used in a blog) is a concept of keeping the patient engaged post treatment and post discharge through the use of wearables and IoHTs (Internet of Healthcare Things). This ensures that hospitals are not merely agents in episodic encounters and instead become agents of well-being. BDA will help provide the big picture in the overall health and well-being of the population it serves

Q15. Nishita Mehta: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry in terms of its ability to use Big Data to improve healthcare outcomes?

A. Inder Davalur:  

A better understanding and incentive to invest in the infrastructure is all it takes. Once that happens, India is best equipped to leverage from its large technology-aware population. At the hospital level, BDA could help establish a new approach to purely outcomes-driven pricing structure and treatment protocols that would be data-powered. 


Q16. Nishita Mehta: Would you like to share additional insights on the topic, which I might have missed?


A. Inder Davalur:  

Public-Private-Partnerships with educational institutions and hospitals would also be beneficial. There is going to be a severe shortage of technical resources who are trained in AI and BDA by 2020. If the government partnered with colleges to promote courses and training in AI and BDA India could be the largest supplier of technical talent to the world. If hospitals also partnered with the government to share health data, the state of overall population health will rise and costs will come down.
The article was first published on Mr. Inder Davalur's LinkedIn Pulse page. The blog was Mr. Inder's answers to Ms. Nishita Mehta's Survey published on the HCITExpert Blog earlier, here. I would like to thank both the Author's for sharing their insights via the HCITExperts Blog. 
Team @HCITExperts [Updated: 03 rd Sep 2018]
Authors
Nishita Mehta
Ph.D. Scholar at SYMBIOSIS INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY

Inder Davalur
Inderjith Davalur is a healthcare technology specialist, speaker, writer and utopian dreamer.
Inder works with hospitals committed to transforming the healthcare paradigm with the aid of new innovative technologies. His primary area of interest lies in using data analytics and technologies such as Deep Learning to shift the current physician-driven healthcare model to a patient-driven market dynamic.
Inder focuses on the manifold ways in which data crunching and machine learning can lead to better diagnoses that can not only be made at the time of illness, but predicted way before any symptoms surface. The path ahead in the sector, he believes, lies in the deployment of evolving technologies that immensely influence both diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of healthcare, delivering real patient-driven, data-enabled, informed healthcare.
Inder currently works as the Group CIO at KIMS Hospitals Private Limited, Hyderabad and has previously assumed leadership roles at leading hospitals and companies, in India and the United States of America.

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