When patients know too much #BigData #BPM #healthcare

How did Borders feel when customers could walk in the store, take a picture of the cover of a book, see competitive pricing information and then order immediately on Amazon or elsewhere for delivery tomorrow? Access to information forced Borders and other book sellers to compete on brand new terms and we know how that worked out for them. Imagine the disruption when the same customer-side capabilities hit healthcare. What happens when patients know too much?

Digital transparency

It was expressed well in a recent NPR article, Should Patients See Their Doctor’s Notes? “We’ve developed a paternalistic doctor-knows-best kind of structure where a doctor has been sort of the gatekeeper of all medical information.” With medical records going digital, and storage systems making retrieval easy, how long before we can shop for medical care based on the best price, best patient scores, or best treatment rates? What happens when the patient has access to the same research as the doctors? What happens when I can take the latest notes and records from my doctor and shop my diagnosis and treatment to other care providers?

Culture change

Beyond electronic records, our expectations are changing. We are able to access so much information from government and private sites that the idea of what is truly private is undergoing a great deal of change. If a study has been conducted or a statistic tracked, you can expect to see it available online and useful to those who know how to mine it and make it available to healthcare consumers. Growing up with a mother in nursing, the Physician’s Desk Reference was a sort of Bible in our house. Now it is a mobile Bible available to non-caregivers for just $59.99, quite a bit more than the average app price of under $3 but available nonetheless. Compared to what the average family spends on healthcare each year, it becomes a small investment in being armed with information.

From treating to serving

It is only a matter of time before Yelp for healthcare providers becomes the norm. With so much of the medical bill negotiated down to UCR (Usual and Customary Rates) by the insurance carriers, healthcare becomes less about cost and more about customer service… though you wouldn’t know that when you sit in a noisy waiting room for a doctor that is obviously behind schedule. ‘Average wait time’ will be a great statistic to add to the mix when choosing quality healthcare. As Tom Groenfeldt wrote in the Forbes article, Big Data — Big Money Says It Is A Paradigm Buster,  “… now health care is experiencing fundamental change similar to what retail felt when customers came in armed with smartphones and had more information than sales people. Patients are starting to acquire more information and health care providers are developing more analytics.”


“There’s an app for that” will be a phrase heard more and more often in healthcare. It will take significant technology and process change to enable many of the patient-serving changes that I describe, but even greater technology and process change to keep the healthcare industry intact through the ups and downs of wholesale transformation. New business models and processes will need to emerge to serve the expectations of a public that is more mobile, social and knowledge-enabled than ever before.


Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Healthcare, Markets

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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3 Comments on “When patients know too much #BigData #BPM #healthcare”

  1. Josh
    January 10, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    I’d love to have more of that information to make better health care decisions. I’m sure there will be a company or two founded to unite a patient’s mdeical records, latest notes, and distribute them to the doctors the patient chooses. I don’t think the challenge to implementation will come from patients. It will come from getting doctors to relinquish the information, and to accept patients shopping them and receiving information electronically.

    I’ve had this thought that with the right lab and a thorough, well-designed BPM/Rules application it would be possible to cut out a lot of the time and cost of getting a diagnosis and prescription. The real challange is in looking at images and making a diagnosis. That’s something that will be much harder to automate and replace.

    • January 10, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Great comment, Josh. In researching for the piece, I came across a great number of websites that talked about a patient’s reluctance to ask questions about their own healthcare. It was surprising how many people are intimidated by the whole experience of seeking medical attention and their own well being. As the technology begins to crash the healthcare party, it will affect doctors and their patients, but also healthcare companies. Interesting times ahead.

  2. January 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Great post Chris.

    I know you’re referring to the american system in you post but I’m more tempted to think that even though the potential availability of information is much greater now than it was a couple years ago – notably in the health industry – it’s actual availability won’t increase. Why? Because the demand for health services still greatly outweighs the offer, locally speaking. The health industry does not have the same main driver as the majority of other sectors – the customer – since regulation and subsidies has blocked competitiveness in that sector.


    Thanks! Keep up the good work!

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