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Data strategy: Healthcare industry puts big data, AI to work

A well-crafted data strategy is key to enhancing patient experience and controlling healthcare industry costs, according to Bill Gillis, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization.

In an interview at the recent CDM Media CIO Boston Summit, Gillis discussed how data can be used to revolutionize the healthcare industry. In this video, he talks about the benefits of big data for the healthcare industry and highlights how AI and machine learning investments streamline manual processes and improve interoperability.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What's your data strategy? Do organizations need a chief data officer?

Bill Gillis: If I were to really say what my role is, it would be more a chief data officer. I have a CIO role because our organization is not that large. At the [accountable care organization] itself, we've got about 100 employees, so it just wouldn't make a lot of sense to have a chief data officer. But I oversee data; that's really what I do.

Having a solid data strategy in our healthcare environment is the key to being successful.
Bill GillisCIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization

Having a solid data strategy in our healthcare environment is the key to being successful in the next phase of healthcare, which is we have to figure out a way to control costs. But we also have to figure out a way to keep people healthier, and a lot of that has to do with understanding why people end up in high-cost risk pools, and also keep them healthier without going to the hospital. We believe the power lies in data, and having a solid data strategy is key. Our strategy is really to look at all of this information that's available from the patient side, from the payer side, and merge that together and utilize that as a way to improve care.

What are some of the upcoming healthcare industry trends?

Gillis: The big trends are big data, which probably isn't new to the tech world, but it is to healthcare. We're in these risk contracts now; if you want to be successful, you really need to be involved with an accountable care organization and you need to understand the data. That's what you're seeing, this ability to move past what I would call traditional healthcare informatics and get into big data, data lakes, really pulling in massive amounts of data and finding the things that make a difference and then use it to transform the experience of the patient.

What kind of emerging tech are you looking to implement?

Gillis: We're really looking at AI and machine learning. That's our next big initiative. Blockchain is on the horizon, but I'm not really sold on how it's going to help what I do. It's a great transactional tool, but the big challenge in healthcare is data interoperability. All of these systems store data differently, they code data differently, and we want to access all of it to get a better overall picture of a patient. Right now, I think we can find some solutions in that AI and machine learning process to help us streamline a lot of the manual work we have to do today to codify things and map things so that we can normalize it and make it valid and usable.

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