New survey finds high expectations for big data among healthcare executives

Talent Shortage and Lack of Resources Cited as Top Barriers to Realizing Big Data's full Potential in Society of Actuaries' Survey of Healthcare Executives

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Dec. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Survey results released today from the Society of Actuaries (SOA) find that healthcare executives have high expectations for the benefits Big Data will bring to the healthcare industry. However, most of these leaders have yet to see substantial benefits, as difficulties in finding the right talent to leverage the business opportunities from large data sets and a lack of funding are hindering its application.

Of the 258 decision makers at health insurance companies, hospitals and health systems surveyed by the SOA, two-thirds say they are excited about the future potential of Big Data (66 percent) and the majority (87 percent) agrees that Big Data is an important development that will have at least some impact on their business in the future.  But, about half the respondents indicated Big Data provides little to no business benefit now (49 percent).

"Big Data is going to change everything," says Carol McCall, Society of Actuaries health fellow. "The promise of Big Data not only lies in our ability to leverage data on such a vast scale to improve what we're already doing, but in using it to identify and pursue opportunities that simply weren't possible before. Our survey confirms that healthcare executives believe in the power of Big Data, but don't yet have the means to realize its potential."

While long-term expectations are high, most of these leaders say they have yet to see substantial benefits – and in some cases, any benefits at all – from Big Data. According to the SOA survey, the vast majority (84 percent) of providers and payers say they have had at least some difficulty finding staff that can synthesize complex datasets and glean actionable information from them. What's more, payers and providers cite a lack of resources (funding: 20 percent; skilled staff: 20 percent) as the biggest barriers.

"Right now, says McCall, "the key issue we need to address is how we take all of the insights Big Data has to offer and translate them into something actionable. There's a lot of confusion about what to do with Big Data, not just to create meaningful insights, but to create insights that translate into meaningful action.  Insights are great, but if they don't change what we do, then they haven't really impacted anything."

In response to the lack of resources to leverage Big Data, survey results show payers have acknowledged an immediate need to hire the appropriate staff to manage and analyze large datasets: Nearly half of payers and providers say they plan to add skilled staff in the next year (45 percent), and one in four say they will add staff in the next 2-3 years (23 percent).

"To find the right talent, you have to look in non-traditional places, sometimes even different industries," says McCall. "As a profession, actuaries have their roots in data and analytics and are already doing the work of data scientists. However, executives don't always think about actuaries when looking for the right talent and skillset to leverage the opportunities with Big Data, when in fact, there is no better profession to which they should look."

McCall notes that actuaries are business professionals credentialed by the SOA in using mathematics, statistics, financial theory and other quantitative disciplines to predict the impact of myriad factors in order to compute the present day costs of future health benefits and care delivery. SOA-credentialed healthcare actuaries can use data-driven predictive models fueled by Big Data to help drive improvements in the quality and coordination of care that improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.  

About the Survey
The online survey included responses from more than 250 decision makers at U.S. health insurance companies and hospitals and health systems. The survey took place between Oct. 10 – 13, 2013. Final data were weighted to ensure reported totals are equally representative of perspectives of health insurance payers and healthcare providers.

You can find a copy of the full report here. For more information about the Society of Actuaries, go to

About Actuaries
Actuaries bring a complex future into focus by applying unique insight to risk and opportunity. Known for their comprehensive approach, actuaries enable smart, more confident decisions.

About the Society of Actuaries
The Society of Actuaries is an educational, research and professional organization dedicated to serving the public, its members and candidates. The SOA's mission is to advance actuarial knowledge and to enhance the ability of actuaries to provide expert advice and relevant solutions for financial, business and societal problems. The SOA's vision is for actuaries to be the leading professionals in the measurement and management of risk.

SOURCE Society of Actuaries


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