Chronic disease management is the most expensive, fastest-growing, and most intractable problem facing healthcare providers in every nation on Earth. More than 95 percent of the world’s population suffers from one or more chronic health problems, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published this week in The Lancet, as patients live longer with a higher number of significant, expensive, debilitating health problems.
In the United States, the numbers are equally grim. More than nine percent of Americans are living with diabetes – a third of patients may not even know it. In some Southern states, the diabetes rate surpasses 13 percent. In around 20 places in the country, the obesity rate is over 30 percent. Heart disease, cancer, COPD, and hypertension follow in the wake of poor lifestyle choices. Enormous and all-too-familiar stresses on primary care providers, hospitals, emergency rooms, and public health departments, not to mention on the private and public payers that have to shell out trillions of dollars each year to pay the bills.
Healthcare data isn’t just big. It’s broad and deep, but it’s also incredibly messy. Haphazard health IT adoption, non-existent interoperability, a dearth of data standards, differing notions of data governance and quality, and a preoccupation with volume-based fee-for-service reimbursement have made it difficult to extract meaningful insights from the information that exists in walled gardens or proprietary pools, leaving informaticists and data scientists with some steep cliffs to climb.