A few years ago, providers were skeptical about the worth of big data. No more, says Joe Van De Graaff. “Now, healthcare organizations are starting to say, ‘We need to pay attention,’” according to Van De Graaff, research director for KLAS Enterprises.

Speaking at Health Data Management’s Healthcare Analytics Symposium this week in Chicago, he suggested that there are still substantial differences between industry perceptions about big data capabilities and actual performance. Many pieces still need to fall into place before providers can derive substantial benefits from big data.

Also See: What is Big Data?

For one thing, the industry is struggling to find professionals who are able to manage big data projects and do the analysis that it enables, Van De Graaff said. Analytical initiatives are giving rise to new titles in healthcare, such as data scientists, director of innovation, chief data officer and more.

Still, there’s been a rush to implement analytical information systems. KLAS research has found more implementations of analytics and business intelligence applications among healthcare organizations, but less attention being paid to training in healthcare “than any other market segment that KLAS uses for comparison.”

Expectations for analytic capabilities are high, perhaps overly optimistic. KLAS discussions with healthcare CIOs have found that those starting with big data say it’s “two to three times harder than they thought, that implementation took two to three times longer, and that the results are two to three times less than they thought,” Van De Graaff said.

The vendor market for analytics and business intelligence systems is fragmented, and providers are hedging bets by implementing systems from multiple vendors. While big players have entered the market, providers may not perceive their offerings as appropriate for their situation or the best available.

With electronic health records systems in place, providers are finishing “the first race,” Van De Graaff said. “We are in the second race now, which involves things such as usability, efficiency, analytics and making data usable and actionable.”

Providers need to consider closer partnerships with analytics/business intelligence vendors, he said. “The industry needs to move from tools to solutions; from capabilities to results; from reports to insights; from completed projects to outcomes,” he said. “As we’ve looked around the industry in this area, we’re just not seeing the outcomes yet.”

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