Big data is more than just "massive amounts" of data, according to Dave Muntz, principal deputy national coordinator at HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
"I believe what we're looking at is a fundamental shift in the way we talk about data analytics," Muntz said during his keynote speech to the Accountable Care & Health IT Strategies Summit in Chicago.
Muntz, the former senior vice president and chief information officer at Baylor Health Care System, Dallas, recalled his days starting out in healthcare IT as programmer before the launch of Microsoft's Windows operating system.
"When Windows arrived, serial programming was no longer possible," Muntz said. "You could click anywhere on the screen and something would happen. You had to develop an entirely different way of programming."
The same applies today with big data, he said. Providers and other data users will need to design systems that avail themselves of these reservoirs of information to support clinical decisionmaking—not retrospectively but while the clinician is treating the patient.
"We need to do different kinds of processing," Muntz said. "You don't want to have to wait to gather a massive amount of information. We need to talk about a fundamental shift in the way we gather data and analyze data."
Muntz also said he foresees a future for applying video-game lessons to healthcare, particularly in training and education.
He used the speaking opportunity to run through a list of progress measures for federal health IT initiatives.
Muntz said the current estimate is that the electronic health-record system incentive payment program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has a "potential" maximum payout of $22.5 billion, down from earlier estimates of $27 billion, with the "most recent number" of total EHR incentive payments made at over $8 billion. The ONC's official list of certified EHRs and modular components now tallies 2,801 products, including 1,653 unique products from 900 vendors, he said.
Muntz warned of the need to make better use of technology to improve communication between patients and healthcare providers. So far, he said, only 15% of patients have renewed a prescription online; just 10% have a personal health record; and 8% have e-mailed their provider.