Guest Post: For Better Healthcare Analytics, Look Outside of Healthcare

By Chris Coloian, President and CEO, Predilytics, Inc. 

The Population Health industry is experiencing a time of great change and growth.  There are new and enormous challenges and forces shaping the industry — The Affordable Care Act, growth in government programs (e.g., exchanges, Medicaid expansion), an aging population, changes in employer benefit strategies, new consumer preferences, innovation and technology advances, and the slow climb out of economic recession — to name but a few.

To successfully navigate these changes, a Population Health Organization will have to better identify population and individual health needs, improve outreach, optimize programs’ performance, decrease costs, and improve business and quality impacts.

Several trends will have to be understood and addressed by the industry, including:

  • Changing consumer preferences (e.g., transitioning from The Greatest Generation, to Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials)
  • Technology enablement (e.g., smartphones, wireless medical devices, consumer and provider health apps)
  • Explosion of available information and huge volumes of data enabled by all this new technology
  • Consumer responsibility and engagement
  • Provider accountability
  • Resource constraints (e.g., caregivers, providers, funding, government programs)

Focusing on just one of these trends illuminates a few of the opportunities emerging, and the challenges that go along with it.  Today over 90% of the information an individual consumer creates (one’s “data wake”) is outside the healthcare system.  Insights from their consumer purchasing, voting, and demographic data, along with general information about where they work, play and live, all lead to a refined picture of their health needs and wants.  In fact, these non-traditional data sources have shown themselves to add predictive accuracy to models developed in other spheres (financial services and consumer marketing, for example).  We are convinced this will be the case in healthcare also.

Todd Park, US CTO, and HHS Secretary Sebelius have clearly articulated a strategy to create an open health data platform to support a more effective healthcare system — see some of their efforts at  Park’s vision is to liberate terabytes of government-stored data, similar to the way NOAA opened up meteorological data from thousands of reporting stations to improve forecasting of everyday weather and severe weather events.

But data alone will not be sufficient to create clinical and business insights.  If we are to follow the lead of the financial services and consumer products industries, we will need to bring in the same caliber of computer science talent and machine learning approaches that are fueling a revolution in on-line search, advertising and social media.   In a 2010 Harvard Business Review news article, Tony Hey, Microsoft’s’ VP of External Research, writes of the new “4th Scientific Paradigm”:

”The fourth paradigm also involves powerful computers. But instead of developing programs based on known rules, scientists begin with the data. They direct programs to mine enormous databases looking for relationships and correlations, in essence using the programs to discover the rules.”

The Population Health industry can improve its impact and cost-to-value ratio by pointing what might today be considered futuristic approaches – “big data” and advanced computer science — at many of our common performance issues.  Among these:  predicting hospitalization risk; preventing unnecessary re-hospitalizations; managing transitions of care; optimizing consumer health status and risks; ensuring compliance and adherence; and, capitalizing on receptivity or willingness of individuals to engage in recommended services.

These issues are multi-variant, and have complex underlying patterns that, if illuminated, will lead to provisioning readily-available tools, programs and services to effectively help mitigate looming sick-care events.

In this time of inevitable and far-reaching change, we need a return to the basics of coordinating and managing individuals who are about to utilize significant healthcare resources.  We need to minimize their risk of an untoward outcome by using improved technologies to identify, predict and engage them in their care.  It seems like a safe bet that it’s time to bring the 4th scientific paradigm to healthcare.


Chris Coloian, President and CEO, is a seasoned executive with more than twenty years of healthcare experience. He has led the growth and development of new businesses thanks to his expertise in strategy, executive management, operations and product development for insurance, provider and healthcare services companies. Prior to launching Predilytics, he was a member of the leadership teams of Health Dialog, Cigna Healthcare and Matria Healthcare (now Alere Health). Mr. Coloian is the Chair of the Care Continuum Alliance Board of Directors, the leading population health management industry group representing over 225 care management company members. Mr. Coloian graduated from Ohio State University in 1990 with a Master’s in Health Administration and received his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Miami University in 1988.   Mr. Coloian currently serves on the advisory boards of Jefferson University Public Health Program and is an Editor for the Population Health Management Journal.


Guest Blog Post Disclaimer CCA invites guest bloggers to post on Voice on Population Health Blog as a benefit for our members and the industry and to allow for exchange of ideas and information regarding population health. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and/or of the company the author represents and do not represent those of the Care Continuum Alliance (CCA), its members, or the industry as a whole. CCA is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this guest post article. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author(s) and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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