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Digital Health Data Could Be Big Business for Oklahoma

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Oklahoma — Tulsa, more specifically — may be poised to take a big chunk of business from the rapidly growing health data industry.

Though the amount of U.S. medical data is growing by exabytes — that's 1 billion gigabytes — a year, there’s a focus on using it to lower costs and improve patient outcomes. Dr. William Paiva runs OSU’s Center for Health Systems Innovation. He said there’s record investing in health data right now, and organizations in Oklahoma are ahead of the curve in applying data analytics to health care.

"It's always that unique triangle between technology, people and capital," Paiva said. "So, being able to bring all three of those together really is going to be important to extracting commercial value out of health data."

The main piece of the technology infrastructure is the MyHealth Access Network. The health information exchange receives data from providers and insurers.

CEO Dr. David Kendrick said one of their first realizations while creating the health information exchange is many people have medical records scattered among many different providers.

"That doesn't help patients, to not have their full record available when decision are made about their care," Kendrick said. "And so, in order to accomplish that, we had to conceive of and build out the interstate highway system for health care data."

Kendrick said much like the highway system spurred national economic growth, MyHealth Access Network can spur innovation and investment in the Tulsa region. It’s already helped save $33 million  through its use in a federal initiative to strengthen primary care.

Tulsa-based Verinovum sells analytics tools to health information exchanges, including MyHealth Access Network. One of its founders, Mike Noshay, said with university programs in health informatics, predictive medicine, and cybersecurity; the Tandy supercomputer; and a robust health information exchange, Tulsa has all the pieces it needs to be a health data hub.

"You wouldn't think ... Oklahoma would be first in anything, but when it comes to data aggregation, really looking at at the cleanliness of information and how it could be used for real-world decisions, I haven't been to another community that comes anywhere near the type of capabilities that have been built locally," Noshay said.

Noshay said with health care moving to volume- to value-based payments, providers will have up to 5 percent of their annual revenue at risk. That could help health data grow to a $30 billion industry by 2020.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.