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The Big Paradox of Health Care’s “Little Data”

By Dr. Betty Rabinowitz, MD FACP

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Anywhere you turn nowadays you will see the mention of health care "Big Data" and health care "Big Data analytics." If your natural assumption is that the "bigness" of health care data has to do with its sheer volume, you would be correct. A report by the IDC from 2014 showed that the volume of healthcare data in 2013 was 153 exabytes (one exabyte equals a billion gigabytes), a number that is projected to reach a staggering 2,314 exabytes by 2020. With an annual growth rate of 48%, health care data is also growing at a rate that exceeds any other industry's data. But the volume of health care data is only part of the story. Health care data exemplifies all of the other attributes of big data known as the 5 Vs:

  1. There is a large Variety of data,
  2. the data is highly Variable,
  3. it is generated at high Velocity and
  4. invariably suffers issues with Veracity because of its inherent messiness and imperfections.
  5. Finally, there is great Value in the data, as unlocking its secrets could provide lifesaving remedies and have a significant economic impact.

Considering these characteristics, it is not surprising that there has been explosive development of health care analytic platforms, most which tout powerful predictive and prescriptive analytics capable of analyzing very large data sets over time, identifying causality and predictive patterns.

This is precisely where the big paradox of "little" health care data becomes apparent. In the rush to create, refine and implement big data analytics tools, the healthcare technology industry has overlooked "little data" that most practicing physicians need in order to improve the quality of care they provide while reducing costs and improving outcomes. The paradox of this overlooked data is that it shares almost all of the characteristics of big data in that it has great variety, variability, velocity, veracity issues, and value. These data sets therefore require sophisticated analytics including descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics, and cutting-edge visualization techniques which render the types of insights most practices require on a daily basis.

Here at NextGen Healthcare, we are committed to little data analytics of the highest order. We like to apply big data methodologies to all data – both big and small.


Dr. Betty Rabinowitz, MD FACP

Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Betty Rabinowitz was appointed as our chief medical officer on April 19, 2018. She brings to this position more than 25 years of extensive clinical experience and expansive knowledge of population health and value-based practice transformation. In her role, Betty is tasked with helping NextGen Healthcare promote and improve our solutions in support of our clients’ provider performance, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and financial efficiency…

Dr. Betty Rabinowitz was appointed as our chief medical officer on April 19, 2018. She brings to this position more than 25 years of extensive clinical experience and expansive knowledge of population health and value-based practice transformation. In her role, Betty is tasked with helping NextGen Healthcare promote and improve our solutions in support of our clients’ provider performance, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and financial efficiency.

Betty joined the NextGen Healthcare family in August 2017 as one of the founders and the former chief executive officer of EagleDream Health, the cloud-based analytics and population health management solutions we now know as NextGen® Population Health, which drives meaningful insights across clinical, financial, and administrative data to optimize ambulatory practice performance.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Rabinowitz graduated from Ben-Gurion University Medical School in Israel, where she also completed a residency in Internal Medicine. She came to the United States in 1990 for a fellowship in Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, where she became a professor of clinical medicine. In addition, Dr. Rabinowitz served as the medical director of the University of Rochester’s Center for Primary Care, overseeing clinical operations and population health management for the university’s large employed primary care network. In 2020, she was named on the list of the Top 25 Woman in Healthcare Software by the Healthcare Technology Report.

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