HIMSS Big Data and Analytics Forum: Seven Questions with Tom Sullivan, Healthcare IT News

Lauren Kaufman

With the HIMSS Big Data and Analytics Forum right around the corner, PAN sat down with Healthcare IT News Editor-In-Chief Tom Sullivan to talk shop about all the latest healthcare buzz, get his thoughts on leading industry trends, and see what he’s looking forward to most out of this year’s event.

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Source: publicdomainpictures.net used under CC license.

PAN: What issues do you expect will be at the forefront of the Forum?

TS: Attendees will be privy to a broad spectrum of topics all concentrating on big data and healthcare analytics. Those include sexy technologies – machine learning, crowdsourcing data, predictive analytics – some of the blocking and tackling that all health entities must accomplish – driving results with analytics, proving investment value – as well as the cultural challenges of choosing and working with technology vendors, winning over clinicians, and managing expectations amid the hype.

PAN: What session are you most looking forward to attending?

TS: I'm actually looking forward to every session. But I confess to being biased because I love the promise of big data, population health, and precision medicine. I find all three fascinating. So because you asked, I'll name three:

  • The second day keynote by Leonard D'Avolio, a Harvard Medical School professor, about the hype and disappointment on the road to health care's promised land;
  • The Genius Bar with five panelists wherein attendees can ask them anything; and,
  • The Day 1 closing keynote by MIT professor John Guttag, whom Healthcare IT News interviewed for a primer on machine learning in healthcare.

PAN:  What can we expect by way of new entrants into the predictive analytics market?

TS: A veritable tsunami. With big data, population health, and precision medicine on the horizon, we are seeing a lot of money, VC and otherwise, going into this realm.

PAN: What needs to happen for companies to truly fulfill the promise of predictive analytics in healthcare?

TS: A lot. Another keynote speaker, Michael Dulin, MD, of UNC Charlotte’s innovation center, just gave a great talk at our Pop Health Forum 2016. His takeaway was that the care delivery system needs to be effectively redesigned from the ground up to become based on data if the major trends like predictive analytics and population health are ever going to live up the potential.

PAN: What should providers and CIOs look for when selecting an analytics vendor and what should they avoid?

TS: Healthcare executives evaluating analytics tools should treat them similarly to the way they would any other major IT purchasing decision. That means performing due diligence, talking to a given vendor’s other customers, researching where the company is in its lifecycle (e.g., is it ripe for acquisition, which could land you in another company’s contract?), understanding other systems with which the analytics platform will interoperate, and so on. Also, when it comes to big data, CIOs should really know exactly what they hope to accomplish with the investment from the onset and avoid implementing bright shiny objects just for technology’s sake. This question is a great segue into the fact that Geisinger Health System Chief Data Officer Nicholas Marko, MD, will be delivering a session on this very topic titled, appropriately enough, “The Keys to Choosing the Right Vendor Partner.”

PAN: What do you read to find sources for stories?

TS: Pretty much everything. One of the fun aspects of covering healthcare after spending the first 15 years of my career on the pure IT side —IDG's InfoWorld, Mobile Computing & Communications Magazine, etc. — and now working for Healthcare IT News, is being able to bring that IT reporting and writing background to healthcare as the industry digitizes, industrializes and, ultimately, moves into the 21st  Century, tech-wise. So, I read a lot of technology publications, as well as some of the broader healthcare sites and, of course, track related policy more closely than I necessarily admit to friends and family.

PAN: How do you feel about the evolution of healthcare IT on social media? Do you engage with industry organizations, vendors and/or influencers on any platforms in particular?

TS: Indeed. Twitter and LinkedIn are the big ones for us. There is a thriving community of health IT professionals on Twitter that really raises the discourse on the people, progress, policy and technologies that are underpinning next-generation healthcare in America. So, I use Twitter and LinkedIn to tap into those, get story ideas, follow leads. I also use Twitter regularly for straight reporting to direct message sources and interview them that way.

Learn more about integrated marketing and PR, read: Implementing an Integrated Marketing and PR Strategy for Healthcare Brands.

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