Jörgen Nordenström - The Purpose of Big Data in Health Care Is to Improve Value for the Patient

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Apr 21, 2015
by Stuart Milne
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Jörgen Nordenström - The Purpose of Big Data in Health Care Is to Improve Value for the Patient

Swedish surgeon and author explains the five "V"s of Big Data in health care Jörgen Nordenström speaking at Session 548 | The Promise of Data: Will this Bring a Revolution in Health Care?

As professor of surgery at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, Jörgen Nordenström has written extensively about value-based health care. He believes Big Data can play a huge part in making life easier and better for health researchers, practitioners and, above all, patients.

While participating in Session 548 | The Promise of Data: Will this Bring a Revolution in Health Care?, Nordenström spoke to Salzburg Global to explain what he calls the five “V”s of Big Data in health care, starting with the most important – value.

He said: “We have many problems in health care, including silo thinking and the problem of patients going from one provider to another – these transitions are always a risk factor for developing complications.

“Value-based health care is the concept of creating value for the patient, to look at health care from the patient’s perspective rather than the health care provider’s perspective.

“There are many aspects, including quality improvement, use of best practice, motivating health care personnel, providing patient-centered care, and so forth. I think the name value-creating would be better than value-based health care.”

According to Nordenström, Big Data has a role in putting this philosophy into practice, summarized by five “V”s.

“The first “V”, volume, is the massive amount of data. The second one is velocity - we will be creating data very rapidly, and we will be able to retrieve it at high speed.

“The third is variety. Big Data entails that we have data from many different sources – research data, electronic medical record data, patient experience data and public health data.

“The last one is veracity. We need to be able to trust the data that is coming out.

“These four “V”s should add up to a fifth “V”, namely value. That’s really the purpose of introducing more Big Data in health care - to improve value.”

Medical literature is also strongly characterized by the first “V”, volume, with researchers and practitioners confronted with an enormous and ever-expanding array of published articles to consult. Nordenström feels this is a conundrum that needs addressing.

“Health care workers are sometimes not keeping up-to-date with the current literature,” he said. “This is quite surprising – I think most patients would take for granted that at high-profile academic medical centers the doctors and nurses should be up-to-date.

“When you measure this, there are observations that perhaps 30-40% of patients do not get care which is in line with best practice. We need to promote this aspect - there perhaps needs to be a culture change, and there needs to be education on where to find the evidence and how to make use of it.”

Furthermore, Nordenström says Big Data has the power to radically transform how researchers go about their work.

“Randomized control studies are the gold standard for medical research, but the problem is that they are very expensive to undertake and sometimes involve many years of observations,” he said.

“It’s not unusual that a proper randomized control study can take up to ten years before it’s published.

“Another problem is there is a specific question that each study tries to address, and other questions are difficult to answer.

“The promise of Big Data is that you can reuse the data. You can have a question, you go into this bank of Big Data and you can get an answer. When you have another question you can go back to this data bank.

“I think this will add great value to future research, but one needs to be cautious about the accuracy of the Big Data pool, and I’m sure there will be ways of looking into this and getting the methodology correct.”

Nordenström also has clear ideas about the value of attending Salzburg Global’s session on Big Data.

“I think the most important part is the social networking part,” he said. “We spend five days here and we get to know other delegates, including very important and experienced researchers.

“It also gives you a broader perspective and gives you new ideas that need to be explored or discussed.

“It’s a wonderful update on the promise and problems of Big Data.”


Jörgen Nordenström was a participant at the session The Promise of Data: Will This Bring a Revolution in Health Care? The session is part of the Salzburg Global series “Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century” and was held in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, Arizona State University, The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, and in association with the Karolinska Insititutet. More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobalseminar.org/go/548

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