Have You Started Your Data Expedition Yet?


In 1803, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their now famous expedition. The initial goal was to find a water-based route to the Pacific Ocean in addition to exploring the unmapped West. They imagined they’d find woolly mammoths, mountains of pure salt, lava-spewing volcanoes and never before seen creatures. What they found was quite different. Why did they even risk life and limb to do this in the first place?

It turns out that Thomas Jefferson was a visionary and a bit of an intrapreneur. When Jefferson took office in 1801, one of his top priorities was to gain control of the port of New Orleans. He saw this important water access point as an enabler of economic growth for farming. In one move, he more than doubled the size of the country for what turned out to be the real estate deal of all time … at the bargain price of less than three cents an acre. He paid $11.25 million in 1803 or roughly $234 billion in today’s dollars. That investment has paid for itself in incalculable terms in 1803. Of note, part or all of 15 states were created from this transaction. Ironically, Jefferson’s desire to control New Orleans what is the motive for the deal and the rest of the territory was pretty much a throw-in. This transaction is probably his greatest legacy and was arguably the most important step taken to build The USA into what it is today.

What would you do if you found yourself sitting on a massive untapped asset … and no one knew what it contained … or what to really do with it?

Jefferson decided to conduct an expedition of discovery by creating the Corps of Discovery in 1804 to explore his new acquisition.

Ironically, if you are a healthcare provider, have the same opportunity. Your big data is your untapped asset. What are you doing to explore, understand and leverage it? Leading providers are already conducting data expeditions of discovery. Most importantly, they are creating new streams of revenue from what they are learning.

Jefferson turned to trusted allies .. James Monroe to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase and Meriwether Lewis (who added William Clark) to lead the expedition of the acquired territory. Along the journey, other team members joined them (Sacagawea and Touissant Charbonneau).

You will need trusted allies and partner also for your expedition. You also need to think outside the box. In order to take advantage of new insights, it will require new thinking and new business models.

The Corps of Discovery faced nearly every obstacle and hardship imaginable on their trip. They braved dangerous waters and harsh weather and endured hunger, illness, injury, and fatigue. Along the way, Lewis kept a detailed journal and collected samples of plants and animals he encountered. It’s no wonder that it became known as the wild wild West.

You may not face hunger, illness and injury on your data expedition journey (insert IT joke here) but you will need the right kind of tools to prosper from it. Most importantly, navigating your way through big data will require advanced technologies … especially since more than 80% of it is unstructured in nature.

What the Corps of Discovery found was mind-boggling … some 300 species unknown to science, nearly 50 Indian tribes, and the Rockies (the mountains, not the baseball team).  They created the foundation and landscape for future governing states and grateful future generations and citizens.

You are almost certain to find many new ideas, insights that are really opportunities waiting for you to identify and exploit them.  Most amazingly, you have the same opportunity to impact the lives of generations of the yet unborn .. just in a different manner.

But unless you act now and start your own expedition … you are going to fall too far behind. Here’s why … new business models and new ways of delivering healthcare are already emerging.

Plus, you might swallowed up by big data bigfoot. A big data bigfoot … really!?!!(yes, I know this is a stretch)

By 2020, the footprint of medical data will double every 73 days according to the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine in 2014 (get it … bigfoot … as in footprint).

Seriously, This is going to change everything!

Data is going to become imaginably big. Get ready for a new term … Exogenous Data or data originating from outside (derived externally) … as in data from Apple Watch, Fitbit, medical devices, smartphones … you get the idea.

Exogenous Person The future of health is all about the individual and having a complete picture of the many factors that affect a person’s health. But we need better ways to tap into and analyze health information in real time to help doctors, researchers, insurers, case workers and other stakeholders determine the best approaches, and give the patient greater control over his or her own care. This is where you fit in. Bring your own data and take advantage of this now before others do. Start your data expedition here!

Like every other industry, healthcare is being disrupted and transformed by the exponential growth in data, such as medical records and clinical research, and these growing pools of information are difficult to share because they are fragmented. In addition, they do not readily incorporate critical information about individuals’ non-clinical conditions, which may have a strong bearing on health.

As a result, patients and their healthcare providers are forced to make decisions that are not based on all the evidence. And the problem is expected to get worse: between electronic medical records, digitized diagnostics and wearable medical devices, the average person will likely leave a trail of more than 1 million gigabytes of health-related data in his or her lifetime … the equivalent of about 300 million books. Those on data expeditions today will be at the forefront of capitalizing on new business opportunities that come out of all of this transformation.

Advances in data availability, analytics and connectivity are giving doctors, researchers and other health professionals the tools they need to make better, faster and more cost-effective decisions and individuals the insights they need to understand more about their health and receive personalized care. There is a vast amount of meaningful data that can help tell the whole story about an individual’s health and needs. We plan to help stakeholders in the care ecosystem use that foundation to improve the quality, effectiveness and cost of their care.

Have you started your data expedition yet?  If not, what’s holding you back?  Take advantage of your untapped assets before the opportunity disappears.  After all, there are going to be any other Louisiana purchases … cheap land is pretty much gone.

Land is purchased at a premium these days and that model is to your business advantage now. Don’t be one of those laggards who will end up looking for wooly mammoths or mountains of salt when there is so much more out there. Put your data to work for you!

In simple terms — do three things:

  1. Start by taking inventory of the various types of data you have – pay close attention to the unstructured data.
  2. Take another step by forming a team to study how to benefit internally from re-use of that data (better reporting, process improvements, etc.).
  3. Also assemble a group of intrapreneurs to figure our out to leverage that data into new business areas (licensing of data, partnering on IP, etc.).

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”   I have to agree with Thomas Jefferson on that.

I will be speaking at a couple of upcoming conferences on these topics and more as I share details from IBM’s data expeditions:

Watson Health builds on IBM’s unique strengths to create the ecosystem needed to transform the global healthcare system, as well as to provide the open, secure and scalable platform of data, insights and solutions needed to make it all possible. Information on IBM Watson Heath can be found here. My recent posts …

As always, please comment below … or feel free to reach out to me directly.

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