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Economy and Business

Exploradio: Big Data and the new era in healthcare
A Cleveland start-up is developing tools to help hospital systems chart a course through a turbulent sea of healthcare data
This story is part of a special series.

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
The new era in healthcare is bringing a storm of change for hospital systems. A Cleveland start-up has developed a tool to help navigate through uncertain waters.
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The healthcare industry is undergoing huge changes as the Affordable Care Act introduces new business models that reward efficiencies.

The shift to ‘outcome-based payments’ has hospital administrators experimenting with new tools to help cut costs.

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair looks at how a Cleveland start-up is harnessing ‘big data’ to guide the way in to the new era of healthcare.

Exploradio: Big Data and the new era in healthcare

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The three V's of Big Data: 
Big Data, according to Charlie Lougheed, is all about the three V’s of volume, velocity, and variety. Lougheed is president of Explorys, a Cleveland start-up that has created a Google-type tool to help his clients make sense of the tsunami of data sloshing around the medical industry.  In terms of the three V's, he says Google has a massive volume of data coming at them, a large bank may have a lot of transactions coming through, that’s velocity, and if you think about a healthcare organization, there’s a huge degree of variety.  Lougheed says Explorys has curated 85 billion clinical, financial, and operational data facts, and those ,"make-up the process of care,”  in other words, Big Data.

Have a conversation with your data
Every time you see your family doctor, or take a drug, or enter the hospital you generate potentially useful data that, taken together, could lead to better treatment for you, and a way for hospital administrators to streamline care.  Lougheed says Explorys uses anonymous patient information in the aggregate to explore how well a drug works, or check patient care, or do basic research, “more or less have a conversation with your data, because that’s what’s always been missing within large sets of healthcare data, it’s taken a long time to ask a basic question.”

Explorys got its start three years ago from an idea hatched by a Cleveland Clinic physician who mined the hospital’s database to uncover trends and insights for his practice.  The company incubated in a suite at the Clinic’s business development arm before landing last November in the spacious digs of the former MOCA galleries and hiring 85 employees. 

A new era in healthcare
Cleveland Clinic Innovations director Chris Coburn says Explorys is a response to enormous changes happening in the healthcare industry. He says we are heading in to is an era where information management is going to dominate healthcare.  Coburn says, "the groups, the companies, the hospitals that best manage data are going to come out on top.”

Explorys CEO Steve McHale says the value of big data comes from the Affordable Care Act’s shift from piece-meal payments, or ‘fee-for-service’ patient care, to a lump-sum, outcome-based system.  McHale says today’s hospital leaders are facing a steep learning curve in the shift to new payment models and new care models.  He says, "the fee for service model will become a thing of the past."  McHale believes many hospitals systems are going to have a difficult transformation into that new model.  And like the airlines, banking, and other industries, he says healthcare is undergoing rapid consolidation. McHale predicts about a-third of hospitals will be gone, or absorbed in mergers over the next seven years, "it’s going to come down to mega-systems we think.”

Right now Explorys counts 13 hospital chains in its network, including the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, Akron General, Summa and Catholic Health Partners.  The network tracks 31 million patients and 120 hospitals, 85 billion data points...McHale says analytic tools like Explorys could give providers an edge in the new era of slimmer profit margins, and higher risk. Big data driven healthcare is his prescription for hospitals hoping to survive this coming revolution.

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