CEO Summit Takeaway: Think Big (Data)

"If I want to be a doctor in 10 years, I'd go to math school, not medical school," Vinod Khosla, head of venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, said last Wednesday at the Rock Health CEO Summit in San Francisco.

What Mr. Khosla meant, explains attendee and panelist Tim Gueramy, MD, CEO of secure messaging application DocBookMD, is that treatment plans will increasingly rely on crunching the numbers. "Soon, physicians will be data analyzers," he says. "They'll take you and all your sensors, read the data and will be able to design the best treatment for you."

Much of this data is and will continue to be in electronic medical records. "But EMRs are really just going to be infrastructure," says Dr. Gueramy. "It's going to be all about the apps that sit on top of EMRs and utilize both the data and the infrastructure to make doctors more useful and patient care better."

A recent report from HIMSS Analytics confirms this observation. A major growth area for the health IT market is apps that add basic clinical functionality to EMRs, such as pharmacy management and laboratory management systems, and for data analytics and business intelligence apps that help make the data in the EMRs actionable.

The HIMSS Analytics report projects data analytics and business intelligence apps in paticular have the largest potential for growth. These apps are currently used by 27.1 percent and 44.3 percent of hospitals and health systems, respectively, but the increased interest in these apps coupled with their relatively low market penetration suggests room for significant expansion in the coming years. The report predicts the market for these systems will grow 4.4 percent during the next five years, the largest growth expected for any app studied.

This increasing focus on using big data to get the big picture within the healthcare industry is giving health IT company leaders "an idea of what the future of medicine is going to look like," says Dr. Gueramy. And bringing the CEOs from some of the industry's leaders together helped to prepare these companies for facing the coming needs of healthcare providers.

This was Dr. Gueramy's second year at the Summit. Last year, DocBookMD was just ramping up, he says, but now the company is in six hospitals, has implementations underway at four more and is in the process of signing more customers. The conference was a good "reset," he says, reminding him and the other CEOs who developed tunnel vision during their companies' initial launch periods to refocus on the larger picture. "We all got small in the startup phase, we needed that push back to thinking big," he says.

"After all," says Dr. Gueramy, "[health IT] is what's going to change medicine, not insurance changes or any of that. Technology is what's going to make medicine more cost effective, and just better."

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