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Big Data: Helping Scholarly Publishers Cut Through the Hype

Last week, I had the privilege of participating in an executive panel at the PSP Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Topics included semantic technology, mobile technology and models, big data, and user analytics.

My presentation on Big Data was added to Slideshare on Saturday and started trending on LinkedIn and Twitter almost immediately. Clearly, Big Data is a hot topic!  Furthermore, gaining a solid understanding of what Big Data means and what it means to your business is important to publishers of all sorts. This presentation was customized for scholarly publishers, including the top medical publishers, and provides some recommendations for  participating in the high-growth and quickly changing Big Data field.



Many thanks to Audrey Melkin from Atypon for inviting me to speak and for moderating the panel. I look forward to your feedback on the presentation and on continuing the conversation about developments in the field of Big Data and healthcare analytics.


Trends in Mobile Health Devices

Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog! You’ve probably noticed that the frequency of posts has declined over the past year. We’re putting more focus on contributing to some other publications (in 2012 that included Health Data Management, Dorland Health’s Social Media in Healthcare, and several others). We’ll add a media page in 2013 to list publications, podcasts, videos, interviews and presentations.  If you’ve so much as dabbled in social media, you know we’re prolific on Twitter (@janicemccallum) and use LinkedIn and Google+ to share industry news. Contact me if you want to know the best way to receive updates that suit your needs.

My parting thought for 2012 relates to mobile health (a.k.a. mhealth). There’s general agreement among analysts that mobile devices and mobile communication vastly improve the ability to reach more patients at a reduced cost. There’s also strong evidence that people who use mobile devices to track their activities and vital signs become better at managing their health. Unfortunately, some regulatory hurdles and standards issues stand in the way of optimal sharing of data between stakeholders.  In addition, there’s not much agreement on what business model will prevail in the field of mhealth. My advice for divining the future of mhealth: think of the medical devices, mobile devices, and the data that are produced and monitored by the devices as an integrated unit because it’s the value of the data that will determine the best potential revenue models in the long run. 

We’re entering a phase where medical devices have become digital sensors that collect, transmit and analyze data. At the same time, the technology has advanced to the point where devices can be miniaturized to allow “wearable tech”, that is, devices that can be clipped to one’s clothing, strapped on one’s body, even imbedded into one’s body. Also, mobile phones are adding physical attachments and apps that extend the functionality of smart phones to include tasks that previously   required single-purpose specialized medical devices—including stethoscopes and ECG machines, like the AliveCor ECG pictured at left. Many of the more advanced apps are targeted to physicians. However, it is consumer interest in wearable tech devices for tracking fitness and vital signs that will drive down costs and increase overall demand for advanced health and fitness applications.

Medical device manufacturers that currently sell implantable devices to providers have some thorny issues to work out related to access and control of the data that are generated by the devices. Hugo Campos, who has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), has brought these issues to light through his advocacy efforts based on his desire to learn from the data tracked by his ICD.

The future of mhealth devices and data monitoring will be brighter if the consumers who wear the devices have full access to the data generated by the devices and have control over who else is allowed to access their data. I advise the medical device industry to watch carefully what is happening in the consumer fitness and wellness device segment. Companies like Nike with its Fuelband and Motorola with its MOTOACTV device (both pictured at left), which can be worn on one’s wrist and BodyMedia’s Fit Link armband device are measuring much more than early devices that weren’t much more than upgraded pedometers. The mobile technology will likely follow a standard path of further miniaturization and increasing processing power with costs declining over time. It’s rather ironic that portions of our population that have eschewed traditional wristwatches in favor of mobile phones may soon be sporting devices that include orders of magnitude more functionality than early cellular phones on their wrists as fashion items that have the side benefit of helping them stay healthy—and can tell the time. The wristwatch may soon enjoy a renaissance!

References and further reading for this article:


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.