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Data Drive Efficient Market Transactions

Much of what we do in our business lives can be reduced to a market model. We buy, sell, arrange meetings, seek funding, invest, hire, travel, …. You get the idea. All of these activities require connecting parties to each other and, if done appropriately, they result in making the best match between parties.

In many transactions, the price of a good or service is the key variable on which to make a match. In others, price may not be a major factor at all. In fact, the two economists who just won the Nobel Prize in Economics specialize in making markets in areas such as organ donations or matching medical residents with hospitals, where price is not the central variable to match.

Making Markets was the topic of one of the sessions I moderated last week at the Data Content 2012 conference. Data Content has been at the forefront of data publishing advancements over its celebrated 20 year history. In the Making Markets session we focused on the most common and well-understood type of B2B transaction: connecting buyers and sellers.

The three companies represented on the Making Markets panel help connect buyers and sellers in specialty markets: CapLinked in the investment sector, by bringing together potential funders and companies seeking funding; The Gordian Group in the construction sector by matching contractors to job order contracts; and in the custom manufacturing segment by matching industrial companies with manufacturers of specialty parts.  The speakers emphasized how operating in the “neighborhood” of the transaction creates an opportunity to collect transaction-related data which in turn add more value to the match-making process—creating a virtuous circle.

Other sessions at Data Content touched on how data collection and data management are only a differentiating factor when hard work is put in to cull together hard-to-aggregate data or clean messy data. If it’s too easy to compile the data, you won’t have a defensible resource. But that’s perhaps the most distinguishing benefit of becoming a market-maker: the transactional data that is generated by the match-making process become a unique data asset that cannot be replicated.  These secondary data can be organized and used for industry benchmarks and can be fed back into the matching algorithms to build a continuous improvement loop.

As pointed out by my colleague Russell Perkins in his closing presentation at Data Content, in the era of Big Data, data produced by specialty publishers may just be the special ingredient that helps “solve the ‘ last mile’ problem to make Big Data actionable”. In particular, the trusted and verified contact information supplied by publishers can help make the final connection between buyers and sellers.  In the Making Markets session, we saw ample evidence that structured data supplied by B2B data publishers can be put to use to drive efficient transactions throughout the match-making process.


Talk Big Data and Health Data With Me

The term “big data” has caught on like wildfire as the umbrella term that encompasses the major trends that this blog has covered and that I’ve been commenting on for the past decade, which include:

  •         Digital evolution in publishing
  •         Search engines, findability and online advertising
  •         New sources of machine-generated, user-generated and social media content
  •         Semantic analysis and contextual matching
  •         Data analytics and modeling to drive decisionmaking


In the coming months, posts will focus on health data trends and opportunities for data publishers and health IT firms to provide new services that plug gaps in the market for health data. Topics of particular interest include:

  •     Sources and uses of outcomes data
  •     Information asymmetry between patients, clinicians & payers
  •     Convergence of business intelligence and clinical analysis in healthcare

These meta-topics will be viewed through a lens of how health data can be applied to add efficiency to healthcare businesses and to improve the overall healthcare experience for patients. Comments are always welcomed on this site, or you can contact me directly here.

Along with ongoing blog posts and other social media commentary, I’ll be speaking or moderating sessions at the following real-world events where these topics will be discussed with experts from healthcare, information technology, information management, big data analytics and publishing:

 HealthCamp Boston, Friday, September 14, 2012, Cambridge, MA.   

I am on the organizing committee of this “unconference”, which is attracting a global audience this year in large part because it immediately precedes the Medicine 2.0 conference.

HealthCampBoston is a forum for people with interest in all areas of health and wellness to gather, to generate ideas, and to take practical steps towards building the future of healthcare. HealthCamps are different from traditional conferences where speakers talk at you. At HealthCamp Boston, attendees set the agenda, and all contribute to the event according to their interests.

The Boston area is a center of innovation for all aspects of healthcare, so you can be certain that people at HealthCampBoston will be discussing things like:

- Big Data in healthcare
- Improving engagement and outcomes through mobile devices and social media
- Personalized medicine and translational medicine
- Empowered patients
- Practical impacts of healthcare reform
- and more…

See the registration page for a list of the people who have already registered. You’ll be in good company at this event (and the cost won’t break your wallet). Note, we’re still seeking companies that would like to sponsor HealthCamp Boston and earn a place on a 4x4 panel. 



Data Content 2012: InfoCommerce Group and SIIA’s Annual Conference, October 9-11, 2012,

                              Philadelphia, PA.

Data Content2012 is targeted to data publishers in all industries, not just healthcare. However, most of the best practices and use cases described at Data Content can be applied to healthcare sector and you will certainly meet dozens of other healthcare industry publishers and investors at this event.

Data. Community. Markets.

As DataContent marks its 20th year, we’ll explore the intersection of Data, Communities and Markets. The sessions offered throughout the conference go beyond the data hype, and give you a straight talk on why the data business is the hottest segment of the information industry, and how it will continue to grow. During the conference we’ll identify the trends that are the most profitable and how to incorporate them into your business plan. DataContent will give you a clear understanding of where data fits in your future to help your business grow and to identify new opportunities.

DataContent 2012 also offers a wide array of networking opportunities to help you connect with the right people to get deals done. Enjoy the ever popular speed networking to meet all of your contacts quickly, and follow up throughout the conference during our ample networking breaks, lunches, and at the Excellence in Action dinner and reception. Enjoy the river views offered at our new venue, while meeting with partners, customers and prospects.

Check the events page on the Health Content Advisors website for updates to upcoming live events and recaps of past events. I hope to see you soon in Boston or Philadelphia!



The Semantics of Big Data

I had the pleasure of attending the Big Analytics Road Show in Boston this week. The presenters and sponsors did an outstanding job of describing the “big data” ecosystem. They even offered clear descriptions of Hadoop and MapReduce for non-technies, which is quite an achievement.

The most rewarding aspect of the day’s program, however, was its emphasis on how the data can be used to add value to business decisions. Consequently, the focus wasn’t on acquiring massive quantities of data (although zettabytes and yottabytes were mentioned!)—or even on the value of organizing big data sets. Instead, the program provided many examples of how analysis of structured and unstructured data in tandem can lead to new insights that can improve business processes and marketing decisions.

Years ago, at InfoCommerce Group we coined the phrase “data that can do stuff” to describe the advantages of well-designed data products. In essence, a data product that is designed to meet a defined need of a target audience becomes a decision tool when analytics are applied. With the era of big data upon us, even textual data and real-time streams of behavioral data can be leveraged via semantic and pattern matching technologies to obtain data that can do stuff. Furthermore, the different types of data can be overlaid to achieve higher levels of insight into customer behavior or patient outcomes, for example.

The takeaway point: data analysis tools and techniques that used to be available only to big life-science companies and search engines are now entering a phase where the costs make the technologies more widely accessible. However, as someone mentioned at the Big Analytics event, Gartner Group places big data at the peak of inflated expectations on its hype cycle curve. I agree with Gartner because of the level of noise surrounding big data. Nonetheless, with proper alignment between the data, business goals, and execution, opportunities to benefit from big data—or should I say big analytics—exist today.


Between The Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature (Review)

“BTL provides the best critique and comparison of observational vs. interventional (e.g., randomized clinical trials) research studies that I’ve ever read. Even evidence-based medicine experts will find something eye-opening in this book.”

Posting a book review on this blog is a first for me. I am making an exception because this compact volume, Between the Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature, by Marya Zilberberg, MD, MPH, provides an expert’s explanation of many critical issues related to health literacy, evidence-based medicine, and changing models of medical research—all issues that are covered in this blog.

At the highest level, Between the Lines tackles the complex issue of uncertainty in medicine. Dr. Zilberberg presents a framework for assessing the strength of medical evidence in a way that anyone with some basic knowledge of statistics can follow. She uses clear examples that explain, for instance, why a medical test with a 5% rate of false positives could yield a 98% chance of a false positive if the known prevalence of the disease is very low. If these numbers sound irrational, then it’s time you either study Bayesian statistics or read Between the Lines.

In fact, Bayesian statistics are what united Dr. Zilberberg and me. We met via Twitter and our first engaged conversation occurred when she commented on David H. Freedman’s article in The Atlantic: Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science. David’s article provoked quite a lot of discussion about the state of evidence-based medicine (EBM), at least based on the type of research we currently consider our ‘gold standard’. His article profiled Dr. John Iaonnidis, who is now chief of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford Medical School. [1]

When Dr. Zilberberg started explaining the effects of heterogeneity in her blog, I knew I had found someone who had the ability to address important statistical topics in a way that could be understood by a broad universe of readers.

In addition, the book is an excellent resource for non-medical professionals who do have some training in statistics. For me—someone who has experience in econometric modeling and has long been an advocate of Bayesian statistics— but has no formal training in epidemiology, I found the book to be a terrific resource for translating mathematical statistics terminology into medical statistics terminology. All I need now is a self-study guide and comprehension test and I think I’ll feel confident in my understanding of concepts in epidemiology. This shouldn’t be a surprise given that Dr. Zilberberg teaches epidemiology.

I highly recommend this concise volume to anyone involved in peer-review or any aspect of medical communications. I’d even go as far as to say it should be required reading for these groups. And for clinicians and those who determine evidence-based guidelines? Well, I know I’d feel a lot more confident in our healthcare system if I thought that most clinicians could answer the 12 questions that Dr. Zilberberg recommends patients ask before accepting to undergo a medical test or procedure (see Chapter 12).

Finally, I’m confident that Between the Lines will be an important addition to core readings for two groups I highly admire: 1) medical librarians and 2) the Society for Participatory Medicine (

To obtain a copy of the book, which was published May, 2012, visit the Between the Lines website.


[1] See: for a recent article about Dr. Iaonnidis’s work.


Secondary Data Usage in Healthcare

I was guest speaker at the March 22, 2012 “Let’s Talk HIT” series hosted by Scratch Marketing & Media in Cambridge, MA. The topic I chose was Secondary Data Publishing in Health. Health Content Advisor’s parent company, InfoCommerce Group, has a long history of guiding business media companies in constructing data products, but increasingly we are finding interesting examples of secondary data products that develop as a by-product of technology companies. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) represents one of the more compelling examples of information technology that has the potential to spawn a new generation of data products.

Scratch Marketing has posted the video of the talk, which was structured as an interactive group discussion, in 8 parts. See their YouTube page for the list of segments:

See the event recap by Lizzie McQuillan at Scratch Marketing here:

Also, for a provocative view, read Marya Zilberberg, MD, MPH’s takeaway from the evening’s discussion:

Thanks again to Scratch and the many Boston-area (stretching all the way out to the Berkshires!) health IT, public health, healthcare publishing, entrepreneurs, and marketing experts who attended and participated in the discussion. Scratch Marketing added Twitter handles to the video, which helps tremendously in identifying each speaker.