Now Reading: Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning for Healthcare

by Prashant Natarajan, John Frenzel and Detlev Smaltz


I am always on the lookout for clear and concise books about healthcare analytics to recommend to folks who want more than an article, but less than taking a class.  

I am partway through this HIMSS published book written by a trio, one of whom is the CMIO at MD Andersen, John Frenzel, whom I have met several times and enjoy greatly.  He has led substantial analytics programs for MD Andersen, as well as their Epic implementation, so he knows of what he speaks!  My impression so far is that this is a good primer whether you are an IT professional, clinician, or other interested party who is curious about the nuts and bolts of making this work.  

The book is a solid overview of the foundations of launching a big data program in a healthcare organization, what use cases it’s being applied to today, and the potentials for the future.  It contains significant explanations for those who may be new to diving into understanding the realities and hype of machine learning, and clearly explains the various types of analytics – for instance the difference between machine learning and deep learning - without drowning the reader in technical nuances.  There are plenty of other places to go for those. 

The authors call out that it really wasn’t until 2016 or so that any US healthcare institutions were implementing substantial big data programs, despite what hype we may be hearing, so we are still early on the maturity curve – an excellent time to learn more!    One of the best reality checks I’ve seen so far in the book is to highlight the necessary linkages and synergies to EDW based analytic programs of today – and that big data will not replace solid Analytics 1.0 capabilities.

The last 3rd of the book is a series of case studies from various healthcare organizations that have reportedly successfully implemented at least one use-case of big data-based analytics, which may provide the confidence to proceed for those who are in organizations where this has not yet come to life.

Gwen O’Keefe, MD