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Big Data & Analytics Heroes: Pamela Peele

January 15, 2014

Big Data & Analytics Heroes is a recognition program created by IBM to acknowledge and highlight big data and analytics industry thought leaders. This week, our Hero is Pamela Peele, chief analytics officer of UPMC Insurance Services Division.

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How have big data and analytics impacted how you do your job today?

At UPMC we turn massive amounts of big data into information and, more importantly, into new knowledge, and we use that new knowledge to understand new models of delivering care, particularly personalized medicine. Not only delivering the care, but concurrently developing new models of financially supporting that care because we're both a delivery and a financing system. We're an integrated delivery financing system, an IDFS, which gives us the best opportunity to figure out new ways to produce care and finance that care.

How are big data and analytics changing your business strategy?

At UPMC, we have a lot of data.  If you want to talk about big data, one of the best places to begin that conversation is to talk about genomics. We're facing pressure from providers to try to figure out a better way to deliver care. So for instance, breast cancer is a very good place. We're doing a lot of work in genomics in breast cancer at UPMC. We're generating tremendous amounts of data in our quest for personalized medicine. And one of the challenges that we face is handling that massive amount of data. In addition to our genomic work that we have, we have other pieces of big data, particularly electronic medical records which are both structured and unstructured and highly useful data. And in analytics we're using all of these data to create new knowledge. 

How can big data combined with analytics improve the world we live in in 5 to 10 years?

Big data is best described by paraphrasing Herb Simon, Nobel economist. He said that an information rich environment creates a scarcity of what it consumes. This clearly articulates one of the risks of big data. Our attention is what information consumes. We have a finite amount of attention in a world of massively increasing information. The challenge for big data is to not only produce new information but to weave information together to make it attention-worthy. And Simon said that in 1971!

So where we're going with analytics and big data and where I think we're going to be in maybe three, four, five years? Perhaps it's going to take a little bit longer, six even. People are going to have their electronic medical records on their Smartphones or other mobile devices. They're going to have their virtual health coach on their phone—we probably won't have phones then. However, healthcare isn't going to be something that you do once a year or do because you don't feel well. People are going to be investing in and interacting with their own human health capital on their own. Now we're going to be interacting via mobile channels. How is analytics going to be part of that? The Cloud of the analytics behind it is going to be surfacing up what needs to be known at that point in time. We have mountains of data. What we need is the right information at the right time so that you can engage in your healthcare with your team of providers wherever and whenever needed.

For more Big Data & Analytics Hero profiles, stay tuned here, at the Big Data & Analytics Hub, for a new Hero every week.