Unstructured Data in Healthcare
In 1896, Vilfredo Pareto defined something known as “the Pareto Principle.” This is the idea that 80% of consequences result from 20% of causes. While this is more observation and less scientific fact, we can see evidence of the Pareto Principle all around us. Healthcare is a great example.
Health data comes in a variety of different forms: electronic records (HER / EMR), sensors tracking our vital signs, lab results, physicians notes, patient-generated data (from cell phone applications or wearable technologies), various types of imagery (MRIs, x-rays, and medical photography, etc.), and even simple things like patient surveys and sign-in sheets at the reception desk.
All these different inputs are constantly providing healthcare companies with more data; however, it tends to be ‘unused.’ From hospitals to private practice, and insurance companies to our government, they are all trying to figure out what to do with it.
What if I told you that 80% of healthcare data remains untapped and unmanaged? That would mean 20% of available information is driving the majority of the results providers see. This is a classic example of the Pareto Principle at work.
Why does this happen?
80% of healthcare data is unstructured. (To learn more about this topic in general, click here.) Most companies have processes to deal with structured data. This would include numerical values like height, weight, and blood pressure alongside categorical values like blood type or the stage of a disease.
Unstructured data, on the other hand, poses an issue. While structured data can be easily validated against biologically likely ranges and analyzed over time, unstructured data is more difficult to pin down. Medical imagery, physicians notes, and even faxed copies of structured data are all examples of unstructured health data. That means they must be manually analyzed and interpreted.
Because this information is more difficult to handle—more expensive, complex, time consuming, and frustrating—it typically ends up ignored, unsaved, or abandoned in medical centers. Wait. That means 80% of your personal health data is being ignored in the process of determining your diagnosis and treatment plan.
20% of the inputs in healthcare produce 80% of the outputs. So much information is being ignored.
Despite investing twice the amount other developed countries spend on healthcare, our system is ranked as the 37th best in the world. Imagine how much more we could do with 100% of our data! It’s time we leave the Pareto Principle in 1896 with Vilfredo.
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