With an eye on the mountains of health data that federal and state health agencies are collecting, Northrop Grumman is developing a customizable platform to tie the data sources together and, ultimately, analyze it for the betterment of public and population health.
Known as iHAP, short for Integrated Health Analytics Platform, this early-stage solution is “a way to encapsulate the concepts of large-scale structured and unstructured data, provide the analytical tools, then be able to visualize it so we can provide tailored views,” said Morgan Crafts, director of technology in the civil systems division of Health IT at Northrop Grumman Information Systems.
Crafts explained such views might be intended for a federal official looking at nationwide health trends, a state official seeking data on the impact of policy, or perhaps a government provider like the Veterans Affairs Department drilling down into interventions for individual patients.
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“It’s less about providing just dashboard data, although we do that, too,” Crafts added. “It’s really about how to improve health outcomes and use evidence from scientific and technical metrics to actually improve health and reduce costs.”
Which is something of a sweet spot for federal health agencies including CMS, CDC, HHS, NIH, DoD, VA, even the FDA, said Angela Petty, a senior principal research analyst at Deltek.
“What they’re trying to do by taking disparate data and marrying it together plays into the big data push that the White House is doing as well as what’s been going on now in healthcare in terms of taking these enormous amounts of data and trying to figure out how we can reduce care costs, improve population health, ward off disease and those kinds of things,” Petty added.
Sam Shekar, MD, chief medical officer in the civil systems division of health IT at Northrop Grumman Information Systems, added that now more than ever policy makers understand the potential for big data analytics to bolster decision-making toward improved care at lower costs – a synergy he expects to see more in the near future.
Deltek’s Petty also anticipates a strong market for data analytics in the federal health IT fray – as do the tech titans, including IBM, EMC, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS and others, as well as pure-play analytics software makers.
“The government is trying to take more advantage of analytics. Analytics is of huge importance to healthcare reform, in fact, it can’t be done without using analytics,” Petty said. “The hard part is that money is sort of tight right now, so spending on new systems and solutions is difficult.”
That said, Petty pointed to Deltek’s most recent federal health IT spending report, which in 2011 gauged it at $4.5 billion and growing to $6.5 billion, as evidence that despite the strained economy the government is spending on health IT.
A UBM TechWeb report, published in August of 2011 and sponsored by analytics vendor SAS, found that among the 104 government healthcare professionals surveyed, 41 percent are currently using healthcare analytics, 30 percent are not but plan to in the next 12 months, and the remaining 29 percent indicated that they were not then and had no plans to do so. The survey respondents, primarily encompassing CDC, CMS, FDA, HHS, NIH, military agencies and state governments, also indicated that top uses of analytics include summarizing historical data, forecasting outcomes based on historical data, tapping sophisticated modeling to predict future outcomes, optimizing processes, supporting medical informatics, among others.
The report found that the agencies steepest analytics challenges were budget shortfalls, data integration, staff training, improving outcomes, accountability, new rules and regulations, and providing safe, effective patient care.
Petty added to that list: privacy and security, exchange, storage, data governance, and, when the industry starts moving this big data around, bandwidth.
Northrop Grumman is aiming to help agencies surmount some of those obstacles with iHAP – though the exact form of iHAP largely depends on the customer.
“As we create solutions and respond to government requests for systems, we’re using solutions we’ve been building in our research and development environment for states and federal agencies. We are building it into solutions that we are bidding on for multiple government contracts now. And we are using the tools today and demonstrating them at public conferences,” Crafts explained. “There are pieces available, but the whole goal is not some behemoth shrink-wrapped thing that you buy lock, stock and barrel. Rather, it’s to give us the principles for how to use the right suite of tools to deploy across federal and state, potentially affiliated organizations.”