Big Data, Little Information?

November 1, 2013

by Joyce Miller, Jaren Wilson, and Beverly Schulman

Joyce Miller Jaren Wilson Beverly Schulman
In recent years, the volume and variety of health care data has grown exponen­tially to the point that the term “big data” has be­come part of our vocabu­lary. Big data refers to data sets so large and complex that they are difficult to process. In short, big data is making us data rich but information poor. We are drowning in data when what we really need is information.

Data alone has little value

To make it worse, big data is still growing. IBM Global Business Services, which partnered with MIT Sloan Management Review to survey nearly 3,000 executives, managers, and analysts in more than 30 industries and 100 countries, found that 60 percent of survey re­spondents believed that their organizations have more data than they know how to use effectively. The time spent collecting, scrubbing, and converting data leaves little time for understanding its usefulness to the organization.

While there is value in maintaining a database that tracks an organization’s performance, overanalyzing the past brings minimal value to planning or marketing. Simply knowing what and why something happened is no longer enough. To effect change, we need to shift from decision-making based on personal experience and history to decision-making based on data.

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