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Berwick on Analytics: Technology Is Ready, but Doctors Need Help

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, May 15, 2012

If Marcus Welby, MD, were practicing on TV today, would he be letting data drive his decision-making? I'm on a journey to find the answer to this and related questions. Last week this journey took me to Atlanta for a HealthLeaders Media Roundtable on business intelligence and predictive analytics, and then onward to North Carolina for a conference dedicated to healthcare analytics.

While in North Carolina, I got to sit down with Don Berwick, MD, former administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and prior to that, founding CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. We talked about data analytics, but our discussion ranged far and wide around healthcare IT. Here is a portion of our conversation.

HealthLeaders Media: How far along is healthcare with its adoption of analytics?
Berwick: I certainly see the potential. At CMS we did do some early trials with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has tremendous data capacity. [CMS] gave them access to privacy-protected Medicare information. They have tremendous analytic capacity, and it was stunning what they did. I remember visiting Oak Ridge, and they had modeled some uses of Medicare and Medicaid data, and they were coming up with insights right away, of geographic patterns of variation that I don't think Health Services researchers knew about.

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