Healthcare Big Data vs Skinny Data

Posted on April 2, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I have heard a number of people talk about healthcare big data was all the buzz in the healthcare IT world. There’s little doubt that there’s a lot of conversation happening around big data and analytics in healthcare. While I think there’s tremendous value to be found in healthcare big data, I’ve been more intrigued by what Encore Health Resources calls skinny data.

You can read more about the Encore Health Resources CoreANALYTICS announcement, but the approach is what I find really interesting. Instead of trying to create a huge enterprise data warehouse that can be all healthcare data for everything, they instead decided to focus on created a smaller solution that just focused on one major problem: meaningful use.

Encore Health Resources was open about the reason why they chose to go with a skinny data model as opposed to a full enterprise data warehouse model, time and budget constraints. They basically were asked to produce a result with a limited budget and so there wasn’t time or money to do anything but achieve the desired results. One of the architects of the system said, “If you can give me the extra data for free, then give it to me. If it costs [time or money] more to get that data, then don’t do it. Although, if you don’t give me these other data elements, then I’m going to have issues.”

It seems like a pretty simple concept to me that makes me wonder why I haven’t seen more of it in healthcare. Encore has taken these concepts and started to expand beyond meaningful use and into other areas like at-risk populations, clinical analytics for care coordination, and financial analytics.

I asked them if CoreANALYTICS would eventually grow into what essentially becomes an enterprise data warehouse. They suggested that it wouldn’t likely ever get that large, but I can see a path to that type of result.

What I do love about skinny data is that it’s user the information a hospital has available and creating actual results. It’s one thing to have the data, but it’s what you do with that data that really matters.