Big data has made a serious impression in healthcare. A slew of recent announcements have recently come from some of the biggest healthcare organisations, many of them involving collaborations with major players in technology: IBM’s Watson is poised to partner with Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic on a number of ventures; UnitedHealthGroup and the Mayo Clinic have jointly created professional services shop Optum Labs; AstraZeneca will be teaming up with PatientsLikeMe to take advantage of real-world data; Google has launched Google Genomics to aggregate genomics data. The appeal of these collaborations is obvious: the dream of leveraging large data sources to create a future of patient-centered, outcomes-focused, individually customised care is one that payers, providers, and manufacturers all share. In the not-so-distant future, we can imagine big data fueling an end-to-end approach to healthcare: identifying the right therapies for the right patients, ensuring that these patients adhere to their therapies, and even anticipating future complications that might arise in spite of care. This integrated model is at the heart of numerous large-scale collaborations, and constitutes what many consider to be the inevitable future of healthcare.
The beauty of these arrangements is their aim to leverage some of our greatest modern weapons—computer technology and data—to attack one of our greatest modern challenges: the imperative to improve healthcare quality while driving down costs. Of course, the path to success is anything but guaranteed. These are not the first cross-industry collaborations to be launched, and countless complex and daunting roadblocks stand in the way of realizing these vast ambitions. If executed improperly, these ventures could fizzle into a collection of trivial, unused smartphone apps (as thousands of e-health apps already have), or at the other end of the spectrum, bloat into overly complex, equally untapped troves of data (e.g. Microsoft Healthvault and Google Health).
But as more high-profile stakeholders join forces and learn from their experiences over time, the odds of success steadily increase. Already, we are beginning to see practical ways these combinations of healthcare and IT can have meaningful effects. Payers are beginning to use technology like Axial Healthcare’s analytics to identify at-risk patients to help avoid complications from opiate therapy, and IT like Vitality’s GlowCap smart pills are allowing payers to improve drug adherence and patient outcomes. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have seen how novel media platforms can drive down the time and costs of clinical trial recruitment. Google is attempting to use large-scale genomics and big data analytic tools to streamline the drug discovery process, and Apple’s ResearchKit will allow patients to collect real-world data on their health and activity. With patients, payers, providers, and government authorities alike expressing an appetite for novel, data-driven approaches to streamlining care, the future holds great promise for collaborations between healthcare and IT. Now, the challenge is making these new approaches the norm.
Theodore Schroeder is an Associate in CBPartners’ Pricing and Market Access practice.