Cloud Computing and Big Data as Drivers for Better Care Management Decisions

11 December 2012 | Kevin_Dolan, Director of Health & Human Services, Microsoft
​I had the recent chance to attend the 2012 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute in Baltimore, which brings together leaders in health and human services (HHS) to discuss best practices for using health information technologies for strategic planning, improved service delivery and reducing the cost of care for the patient groups these leaders primarily serve, including patients with mental health issues, substance abuse and developmental disabilities. A major discussion point at the conference was how we can use advances in cloud computing and Big Data as a way to connect relevant new data, enabling healthcare professionals to make more informed decisions about their patients’ health, ultimately improving health outcomes.
Today, IT administrators in HHS can identify previously undiscovered trends in care and find data relationships that inform better population health predictions and care coordination. This is driven by increased access to multiple large data sets—or Big Data—that can be combined in ways that permit previously impossible analysis. For instance, electronic medical records allow researchers to access data from thousands of patients quickly and in real-time, offering larger and more statistically relevant sample sizes for health and demographic studies.
In the HHS market, we have been moving towards leveraging Big Data for a decade, and there are several key innovations that make the growth of this trend inevitable including:
  • Increased use of electronic medical records (EMRs) and other digital data.
  • New capabilities to combine and use diverse data types from internal and external sources.
  • Low-cost storage and process power.
  • New software to handle speed and volume, structured and unstructured data.
  • Revolution of clinical user experience—right information at the right time, which improves decision support and care quality.
  • Real-time and predictive analytics.


The use of Big Data in health is already generating measurable value for healthcare organizations. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses Big Data to standardize processes for patient care and clinical guidelines and to achieve greater rates of evidence-based drug therapy. In another example, the Health Care Cost Institute recently released its findings in a report in which they compiled a database of billions of medical claims from the leading payers to help researchers analyze health care costs.
Microsoft is helping to accelerate the use and value of Big Data by providing cloud computing solutions that are built with cost efficiency, risk management, and data protection in mind. Microsoft offers Big Data solutions built on Azure and SQL Server in the cloud, including familiar business intelligence tools like Excel which customers likely already own. Microsoft’s cloud-enabled solutions are enterprise-ready and flexible, and they are equipped with the physical, technical and administrative safeguards required by HIPAA and HITECH laws. Additionally, they support privacy control and a consumer-centered care strategy for organizations across the care continuum.
CoCENTRIX, a care coordination platform company that leverages Microsoft Dynamics CRM, also plays a role in Big Data. At this OPEN MINDS conference, Co-founder and President, Leigh Orlov discussed how their customers in California, Texas and Virginia envision using “big data” concepts and this cloud platform. CoCENTRIX is providing these government agencies and community based providers serving Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities clients a single platform to manage hundreds of thousands of complex electronic health records, the ability to coordinated care across agencies and providers, and rich analytics to uncover best practices in areas such as diagnosis, treatment planning, and outcome measurements across entire communities. In Virginia, for example, CoCENTRIX is initiating a pilot project allowing Community Service Boards to utilize cloud based tools to assess needs and upload de-identified data from disparate EMRs into a data warehouse, making it available broadly for state reporting, analysis and cause/effect studies. In later phases, CoCentrix has plans to broaden the data sets they integrate as part of a “bigger data” initiative to foster better care management – to also include unstructured data such as audio, pictures, video, symbols, and vocabulary sets.
Big Data and the cloud can help organizations reduce costs and improve care, providing tremendous ROI for organizations. How has Big Data and the cloud impacted the way you deliver care at your health organization?
Director of Health & Human Services, Microsoft