In a panel discussion at MedCity CONVERGE this week, participants shared what they’ve learned from working with big data, especially when their big data ambitions hit bumps on the road and things go pear shaped.
Dr. Edward Ewen brought an interesting perspective to the panel discussion at the MedCity CONVERGE conference in Philadelphia this week. A physician, he now works as director of clinical data and analytics at Christiana Care Health System. Back in the day, he was one of the architects behind the assembly of Delaware’s health information exchange, the first in the country. It was no mean feat. Now, Christiana Care is “beginning our ACO journey.” He said, “I think a big part of the transition is shifting activities away from physicians and to the care team….In my experience, physicians love innovation and hate change. If you can craft tools to allow me to do what I want to do, you will see rapid adoption… We are not resistant to new tools.”
Hal Andrews, president of healthcare at Digital Reasoning called attention to one example of a failed analytics effort that was intended to identify sepsis cases. Unfortunately, the data the customer provided for the model had already been coded as sepsis, which pretty much defeated the purpose of the exercise.
“It’s one thing to have advanced analytics but getting it into a workflow in a timely manner is something else,” Andrews observed. “A critical part of the journey is the worklflow — delivering it to the right person who needs it when they need it.”
Nicholas Stepro of Arcadia observed that the need to avoid interfering with workflow can have it’s downsides, too. “It’s important to listen to end users, but you cannot be a slave to them.” He used the example of electronic health records. Because health IT vendors did not want to disrupt existing workflows, they did not take risks and create something that could have been easier to use.
In the question and answer session, an audience member wondered how Ewen would handle a patient’s Fitbit data. “Where would you draw the line on patient-generated data? Where does that fit on the ethical line for you, as a physician? Ewen answered this way:
“I really feel like you need to have patient consent to do that and have transparency so they know how you are using the data. Having a default opt-in or opt-out will undermine trust or slow adoption.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story had the wrong title and company association for Hal Andrews. It also misspelled Nicholas Stepro’s name.
Photo: Meghan Uno/Breaking Media
By now, everyone's got an EMR. And most providers are also making use of ancillary technologies to help harness patient data toward more efficient care and better outcomes. But many species of health IT are still surprisingly underused in the U.S. hospital market.
This year, only six health systems in the nation earned the designation "Most Wired Advanced," indicating strong data security, advanced analytics, proven patient safety initiatives, exceptional chronic disease management and overall implementation of IT systems.
As anyone who either attended HIMSS15 or followed the ensuing conversation can attest, population health is currently all the rage. While reporting from the show floor, in fact, it seemed just about every vendor, from all walks of life, was trumpeting "population health" in one form or another.
What has become eminently clear is that defining population health depends on whom you ask.
Attendance at this year's HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition set a new record. Reported at nearly 43,000, this is an increase of more than 20 percent over last year's 35,509 attendees. This record crowd left Chicago with a clear view of the new era in population health IT and a vision towards a future of connected care and a learning health system.
Despite an ever-increasing number of specializations within the Big Data space, there’s still an overwhelming need for traditional database analysts. Much of the current hiring is for junior and mid-range positions, so candidates can expect salaries anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 for starters.
According to Janine Davis, principal at Fetch Recruiting, “Database analysts have to straddle both hemispheres of their brains.” If you’re currently seeking work in the field, you may want to exercise your brain’s left hemisphere by engaging in all things SQL, and expand your right hemisphere by illuminating your interpersonal communication connectors.
Critical thinking, math skills and a commitment to details constitute the basic skill set necessary for the technical end of the database-analyst field, but true success involves using all these skills in concert to collect, organize, analyze, interpret and then transform the data found inside of an organization.
Whether your analysis goal is simple (collect customer-credit ratings) or complex (chart trends over an extended period of time), you can generally take these three steps in order to extrapolate that data:
Query by SQL: Some form of SQL will likely serve as your main tool, suggests Rob Byron, a partner in WinterWyman’s IT search group: “You want to be somewhat of a SQL guru and be able to write certain queries.”
As a baseline, he added, database analysts must at least have the ability to write detailed specifications for the data they want, which an engineer can subsequently retrieve.
ETLs Manipulate the Information: Database analysts transform, mold and bend the data found inside of an organization into new information. As a result, another essential skill is the ability to easily move and manipulate data. Tools such as SQL server’s SSIS and Oracle’s Data Integrator (ODI), as well as SAP Data Services and SAS Data Management, can help you accomplish this.
Interpret and Report Data: Once you’ve queried and manipulated the data, you’ll need to deliver a report. Know your reporting tools. Byron thinks a lot of analysts can get away with using Excel as a data-dump; for those who want more advanced platforms, however, there’s Tableau, Spotfire, Crystal Reports, SQL Server Reporting Services, SAS and more.
Don’t Forget Soft Skills: “The right hemisphere [of the brain] provides the special sauce that takes the bits and bytes and turns it into actionable information to drive a business,” Davis said, adding that a great database analyst “needs to understand what makes a business tick, and in turn what data will contribute to the best ticking possible.”
Byron also noted that, if you look at job descriptions for database analysts, most mention a business-facing role, which means meeting with users “and understanding what their pain is.” That means a need for good verbal and written-communication skills. While speaking with non-technical people about data, it’s imperative that an analyst knows the audience, and translates any professional jargon into plain English.
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If you’d like to change jobs or switch from freelance to full-time status, prepare to pounce: 2015 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for the IT labor market, according to David Foote, CEO of research firm Foote Partners LLC.
“This year started out slow, just as we predicted,” Foote said. “But U.S. employers added an average of 17,633 IT jobs during September, October and November, and we see that momentum continuing into 2015.”
Foote’s optimistic forecast is based on his discussions with CIOs and his firm’s surveys of compensation and market demand for 734 individual certified, noncertified and hybrid IT skills. (Independently, a recent Dice survey also concluded that tech hiring will rise significantly in 2015.)
Of course, some tech skills will be hotter than others. In what has become an annual tradition, Foote went out on a limb by predicting the IT roles that are most likely to gain or lose ground in the new year, and briefly revisited his projections for 2014.
These positions could lead to solid salaries and job security in 2015:
“IT has been so focused on producing a solution that works today, they haven’t considered scalability,” Foote said. “User adoption rates and activity are soaring, which is fueling the demand for architects. In fact, The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) is the highest-paid skill in our quarterly index.”
Big Data Experts: Last year, Foote predicated a big demand for database developers, analysts and technical specialists, but his forecast faltered when the pay for 31 noncertified Big Data skills unexpectedly declined 2.5 percent between August and September. So we asked Foote to explain why he continues to be bullish on Big Data roles.
“Companies took a breather from hiring during the fourth quarter because they were unable to make the leap into prescriptive and predictive analytics,” he explained. “They needed some time to reflect and regroup.”
He added: “However, the pay for certified skills, especially Cloudera, has held up, which is why I still like Big Data but as a longer-term play.”
Who stands to benefit in the short-term? Data scientists and professionals with top-notch data management and/or analytical skills will likely see their stock value rise in 2015. Foote predicts that the pay for noncertified skills will rebound as companies launch new data initiatives and resume searching for external talent.
Cybersecurity Specialists: If you’re a certified IT forensic investigator, an intrusion analyst or a certified ethical hacker, you’re in luck. After experiencing a record year for attacks in 2014, companies are taking big steps toward building more secure environments.
“2015 will be a good year for cybersecurity pros with niche skills,” Foote said. “Companies don’t have a handle on their vulnerabilities so they’ll be looking for specialized experts to conduct vulnerability and risk assessments.”
Hybrid IT Pros: CIOs need forward-thinking business analysts and software engineers, who are well versed in business strategy, user experience and customer intelligence.“They don’t need coders,” Foote said. “CIOs are looking for are software engineers who can think beyond what they’re doing today and business analysts who can predict what customers will want next year and the year after that. The demand for outside-the-box thinkers with hybrid skills is not going away.”
These jobs, on the other hand, might face some headwinds over the next year:
SAP Specialists: Pay for SAP professionals has fallen 7 percent over the past three years, based on Foote Partners’ survey of 92 certified and noncertified skills. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, the pay for professionals with governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) expertise or knowledge of SAP’s retail modules has remained steady or grown.
“The pay for professionals with SAP peaked in 2011,” Foote said. “Knowing a hot module can bolster your job hunting fortunes and give you an edge in salary negotiations.”
Web Developers: Of course, companies still need website upgrades, reboots and maintenance. But developers are losing ground because the market is flooded with talent. “Employers can hold out for a Web developer with industry experience, e-commerce or specialized domain experience,” Foote pointed out. “Unfortunately, the current market conditions give employers the upper hand in salary negotiations.”
Cloud Professionals: Foote predicted great things for cloud architects, engineers, administrators and integrators in 2014, largely because the pay for 27 noncertified cloud skills rose throughout 2013. However, demand leveled off in the spring, and the pay for noncertified skills actually declined 1 percent over the last three to six months. Why? Chalk it up to an improving balance between supply and demand.
Employers no longer need to offer signing or retention bonuses to attract and retain cloud professionals, Foote explained: “It’s just part of the evolution… When the skill gaps close in a particular field, employers pay the going market rate, especially for noncertified skills.”
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