Convention Q & A: How Big is Big Data?

Gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes—what do these terms mean? And what are the implications for health information management? “Big data” refers to a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional data processing applications. “How Big is Big Data?,” a session taking place on Tuesday, October 29 at 3:15 p.m. at the AHIMA Convention and Exhibit in Atlanta, GA, will focus on narrowing down the abstract concept of big data.

Karen Boruff, CPHIT, CPC, of Hubbert Systems Consulting in Sacramento, CA, and Pamela Lane, MS, RHIA, CPHIMS, of California Health and Human Services Agency in Sacramento, CA, will give convention attendees guidelines on how best to maximize the use of the vast amounts of data being gathered. Journal of AHIMA recently spoke with Boruff and Lane about their session and what members can hope to learn.


Karen Boruff, CPHIT, CPC


Pamela Lane, MS, RHIA, CPHIMS

What exactly is big data?

Big data refers to large volumes of data—petabytes (100,000 times the size of 1 gigabyte). It incorporates data from a variety of sources—claims data, structured and unstructured EHR data, social media, and patient-entered data. It also includes data from public health agencies, clearinghouses, and technology vendors.


What is the role of HIM professionals in managing big data?

HIM professionals play a critical role in the use of big data. It goes beyond record maintenance and documentation—HIM professionals need to be stewards of the data by championing standards and fostering HIM principles for best practices and data integrity.


How can members prevent being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data available now?

AHIMA members can prevent being overwhelmed by the volume of data available now by remembering that despite the buzz around big data, it all comes back to patients and improving the quality of care. Big data in the cloud is important, but the small data in the clinic is just as valuable.


What are you hoping members will take away from your session?

We are hoping that members will have a better understanding of the power of big data, including how data is being used to transform the health of Californians. Big data has the power to transform healthcare, but there are real challenges that need to be overcome.


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