Health Care and Technology

OST sees opportunities in analyzing health data

July 4, 2014
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A West Michigan firm is poised to dive into a data lake as the health care industry wades into implementing technology systems and data analytics.

Open Systems Technologies, an information technology services firm located at 605 Seward Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, provides hardware and consulting services to health care organizations and is now poised to invest in the data analytics arena as opportunities arise as a result of growing data in the industry.

Jim VanderMey, chief innovation officer and co-founder of OST, said the firm has worked with hospitals and businesses across the country as health care organizations implement electronic health records and implement data systems.

“It is really an interesting perspective, and OST as an organization has been buoyed by the technology investment in health care,” said VanderMey. “We had an external event with health care reform. Companies and organizations had to buy systems in order to be compliant with legislation.”

International Data Corp. conducted a market analysis in 2012 of the worldwide business analytics software market and found the industry grew by 8.7 percent to reach a $34.9 billion value, with workforce analytic applications increasing at 15.8 percent and content analytics growing by 14.9 percent.

OST has worked with Spectrum Health, Priority Health, Metro Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield in the Greater Grand Rapids area to provide information technology products and services, such as specialized computers, servers and storage, and consulting work. The West Michigan firm also services health care organizations including Abbott, Bassett Health Care Network, Bronson Health System, Munson Health, Pfizer and Trinity Health.

In 2012, 40 hospitals and 30 health plan organizations were surveyed by IDC Health in an accountable-care study. Of the respondents, 75 percent of insurers anticipate investing between $1 million and $10 million in accountable-care technology, while 75 percent of care providers expect to invest in less than $1 million.

“We had this external event that has created this large investment in technology,” said VanderMey in reference to compliance with health care reform. “We are creating these vast quantities of data and we are just at the cusp of tapping into those quantities of data, which to me is really interesting.”

The investment in data systems by the health care industry is parallel to the manufacturing industry investing in remediation programs in the late 1990s, which resulted in productivity gains without the need to hire a larger workforce, according to VanderMey.

“We don’t know yet everything that is going to happen economically because of that, but when you think about the improvements to quality that are going to be possible … we haven’t had that yet,” said VanderMey in reference to the investment in technology systems. “There are some new business opportunities in leveraging data that is really only bound by our imagination.”

Deloitte, an auditing, consulting, risk management and financial advisory firm, published a global health care outlook this year stating the use of data analytics in health care is an active industry trend. According to the report, not only can providers use the data for clinical value in treating patients, but also the adoption of health information technologies, such as electronic medical records, are impacting the way physicians, insurers, stakeholders and patients interact.

“It’s impacting the way doctors do medicine,” said VanderMey. “There are projects, for example, where they are identifying people who are potential diabetics before they have a diabetes diagnosis, and that is just from the data.”

Some of the business opportunities related to data analytics can result in better care, different types of care, and creating entire new value propositions, according to VanderMey.

“Look at the latest Apple releases,” he said. “They are talking about putting health care on the mobile platform, so now we look at patient self-reported data. … The insurers have data pools as well, so the combination of data from the insurance side and the provider side is a really interesting combination.”

An initiative in Michigan to coordinate care and share patient data was developed in 2009 by multiple health systems as Michigan Health Connect. The nonprofit corporation combined IT and clinical data to advance delivery and coordination of quality, patient-focused health care throughout the state.

“Michigan Health Connect here in Grand Rapids has done a great job in data sharing between Saint Mary’s, Spectrum and Metro Hospital,” said VanderMey. “They are one of the best models of data sharing in the whole country.”

IDC Health Insights in 2012 estimated the volume of medical information to double between 2012 and 2017, due to electronic health record adoption, access to unstructured data, mobile devices, and remote patient monitoring devices. VanderMey said OST is making a substantial investment in the analytics space as the health care industry looks to make a shift toward data-driven medicine.

“I expect that we are going to have a presence in the analytics market similar to what we have in application development within a few years,” he said. “We are going to have people who are math-centric, we are going to have people who are application developers, data specialists and data visualization specialists, all working on projects with customers to see what we can find from the data.”

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