The Health Care Industry: Big Data Is Great, But We Can't Find Enough Talent

Eighty-four percent say they have trouble finding staff who can crunch big numbers and get actionable results.

A new survey out from the Society of Actuaries confirms that leaders in the health care industry anticipate big benefits from big data. Eighty-seven percent agreed that big data will impact the business in the future, and 66% say they are "excited" about the future potential.

But while the industry may be excited about big data's prospects, many say the era of big data isn't quite here yet. The reason: a lack of talent.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they'd had at least some difficulty finding staff with the technical qualifications to handle large datasets. Forty-five percent said they'd be looking to hire folks with those skills in 2014. Health care is just one crucial example of the need for more data scientists—even the White House recently announced a $37 million university partnership to steer more young people into these fields.

Examples of big data's potential in health care include companies like Dell, which is partnering with children's hospitals to help determine the optimal personalized cancer drug cocktail for each patient—a feat that requires processing 30 terabytes of data, for which the time has now been driven down from months to days. And the Durkheim Project, an attempt to apply predictive analytics to social media to lower the tragically high suicide rate among veterans.

[Image: Flickr user Ruhrfisch]

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  • Jenn DaSilva Rowe Warhammer

    The reason people have a hard time finding the resources to do the work is because they try to do it all themselves instead of outsourcing part of it to a company like Perceivant. It takes a team of people to manage the infrastructure, do the data science work, and implement the results into a reusable and scaled way. Building out the infrastructure themselves is like re-inventing a really powerful, expensive wheel, that is incredibly difficult and expensive to get right the first time. Outsourced big data analytics infrastructure solutions exist that come at a much lower cost. Managing the infrastructure on their own doesn’t really add value on the business side. It also takes a really long time to set up and optimize properly to get any real value. If a company is just now getting started or thinking about it, by the time they implement any plan, they will already be years behind in knowledge and performance.

  • Minehaha

    There are so many computer science, math, statistics, even actuarial science majors out there. Finding a talent shouldn't be an issue at all

  • tommariner

    "Can't find enough talent"?? It depends on who is looking. If HR tries to fill a position, their normal mode is to draw up a knockout list with a specific degree at the top. They would rather hire somebody with or without a degree who has talent to quickly learn the part of the job they don't already know. And since the job is hospitals and patients, I'd start right in their own backyard.

    But predicting who will succeed in the challenging environment of using our modern computer tools to help our patients and medical professionals takes judgment talent -- and to a cookie-cutter HR person a job is a job and you hire everybody the same whether the gig has been around for a century or it is being invented in front of your eyes. Yeah, I'll bet there is a dearth of candidates with a degree in "big data healthcare patient treatment analysis". But maybe an X-Ray tech with community college who knows the hospital, the patients and captures gigabytes worth of data every day.