In Era of Big Data, We Need Health Traffic Controllers

Even amid a gold rush in healthcare data software and systems, the gap between doctors and data is widening.

Digitizing sick and health data is all the rage and taxpayers have spent billions so far doing it. The result has been thousands of companies filling vendor halls around the world chasing the Holy Byte in an effort to cash in on the electronic gold rush. But, like our dysfunctional Sick Care system that wastes billions with poor outcomes compared to others, the digital dance has not yet shown the impact we'd like. Doctors don't like it. POTUS doesn't like it. Patients don't like it.

Part of the problem is that there is a widening gap between the data and the doctor. And, that's just one of the gaps. What seems to be evolving is a BIG DATA air traffic control system that will oversee and direct the pilots flying the planes. Everything, including the timing, quality and quantity of patient excretions is being measured, analyzed, displayed, and packaged, all for a price.

To expect overworked, under-trained, and grumpy doctors to use this information to guide them to the right runway is an unrealistic expectation. Health traffic controllers, manning war rooms filled with data filled screens, headsets and monitors, will be the result. Unfortunately, unless you have spent a lot time getting an MD, MBA, and Masters in Information Sciences, those folks are hard to find and our present education and training offerings won't fill the pipeline quick enough.

That big building you see going up on your campus is not another cancer center. Nobody pays enough for cancer care to make a profit doing it any more. No, that structure is a health data traffic control center with a bunch of empty seats. Then again, maybe Watson will save the day and we can always repurpose the building as condos.

Until they are filled, doctors and other providers will be flying blind.