Hospitals and other healthcare centers in the United States will adopt advanced data analytics in significant numbers over the next five years, predicts consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. As of 2011, only 10 percent of U.S. hospitals had adopted some sort of analytics package for health data. However, a number are reportedly laying the groundwork for such systems, and Frost & Sullivan predicts the number of hospitals crunching health data will rise to 50 percent by 2016—a healthy 27.9 percent compound annual growth rate. Advanced data analytics can assist hospitals in developing more efficient supply chains, for example, as well as clinicians in determining infection rates and other trends or patterns. Combining data from electronic health records (EHRs) with financial and administrative information can help hospitals make more informed strategic decisions and refine patient care—at least in theory. In practice, regulations governing policy could determine the ultimate availability of patient data, while politics and policy could have just as much a steering effect on healthcare strategy as hard data. Despite those caveats, Frost & Sullivan sees analytics as the future for healthcare providers. “Hospitals will increasingly invest in advanced data analytics solutions to monitor end-to-end care delivery across a variety of settings,” Nancy Fabozzi, principal analyst for Frost & Sullivan’s health subdivision, wrote in a statement. “Due to growing competitive pressures, hospitals need to provide comprehensive reporting on performance and quality measures to a variety of stakeholders.” And just in case anyone didn’t get the point: “Advanced analytics capabilities are absolutely critical for survival—there is no way to avoid it.” Given the potential revenue in play, a number of IT vendors are building data-analytics solutions for the healthcare industry. Arguably one of the most high profile is IBM, which is deploying Watson to help provide diagnostic and treatment options for cancer care. “Watson will not have any patient ID data; we would have problems with compliance with various regulations,” Ashok Chennuru, Director of Technology for Wellpoint, told SlashBI in June. “But family history is included, and our job is to parse and structure a lot of transcription notes and other information.” The more information about a patient (such as smoking history or exposure to toxic environments), the more potentially targeted the treatment. But there are other projects underway, as well. Once construction is complete, the Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Big Data at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) will allow researchers to analyze massive datasets related to healthcare and life sciences (among other topics). If Frost & Sullivan’s numbers are to be believed, a lot more hospitals will turn to such solutions in coming years.   Image: VILevi/