Farzad Mostashari, a visiting fellow at nonprofit public policy organization The Brookings Institution, is known as a leader in health IT -- a reputation earned in large part while coordinating the federal government's electronic health record initiative. But think of him, if you'd like, as a "data ferret."
That's how he sees himself, at least. "I just want the data. One day I might have the chance to look at it, but for now I just want to get it in, get it in, get it in," Mostashari told audience members attending his morning keynote at today's SAS Health Analytics Executive Conference (register now
). But, he said, he's working on fixing his data obsession, calling himself a "recovering
Anybody with a similar love for data, in all of its voluminous glory, should be working on recovery as well, Mostashari suggested. Don't think in terms of volume, he said, but of value.
Start with a hypothesis. That way, he added, you can say, "This is the data I want, and this is what I'm going to measure."
From a healthcare perspective, focusing on volume to value means quality will be measured and rewarded, total affordable cost is going to be rewarded, and safety and appropriateness of care are going to matter, he said. It means the digitization of data, as well as of workflows. This latter point is vital.
"I've had the privilege to help lead the digitization of healthcare, going from electronic health records being rare to being the norm," Mostashari told the 1,000 or so live and virtual attendees. The switch from paper to EHR is so important, not only because it provides the ability to harvest data and analyze the data, but then to feed the resulting information and knowledge into workflows. "That's the point at which we can actually change something."
Digitization provides the opportunity to rethink workflows. "Don't just pave over the cow paths," said Mostashari, in reference to the folklore around Boston's early streets. "Streamline processes and find opportunities to change within those processes."
Besides encouraging a value mindset, Mostashari, a doctor who has also worked at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kicked off the conference with thoughts on a wide range of issues central to healthcare today... affordable care, population health, healthcare information exchanges, and consumer orientation. He ended with a couple of notes on data use and data privacy, as I will, too.
First, he warned, never surprise your board or your customers with your data. "If people are surprised with what you're doing with data, that will be your third rail," he said. That said, "people are willing to share information if given the opportunity. What cuts through a lot of privacy concerns is affirmative, meaningful choice."
The SAS Health Analytics Executive Conference runs through this afternoon, with a closing key at 3:00 p.m. ET by John Crowley, chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, and inspiration for the movie Extraordinary Measures. You can register as a virtual guest here.
Would you, like Mostashari, consider yourself to be a data ferret -- always on the lookout for more, more, more? How have you tamed your data desires?
— Beth Schultz, , Editor in Chief, AllAnalytics.com