Data analysis, the election and health care reform

The re-election of President Obama dramatically increases the chances that the Affordable Care Act will be fully implemented. It also demonstrates the power of data and analytics to drive results and to improve over time. Karl Rove helped get George Bush elected by pioneering the use of consumer data to finely segment voters, but in the last two elections the GOP has been far eclipsed by the Democrats who have built on what Rove did and took it much further.

Sasha Issenberg explains on Slate (A Vast Left-Wing Competency) how the Democrats quickly caught up with Rove and then surpassed the GOP techniques in a way that provides a sustainable advantage. The Democrats have taken a more scientific, experimental approach from the social sciences that yields better results, while Republicans lack folks with the same academic pedigree and disciplined approach.

“The asset that Karl Rove and his team built during the Bush era, with consumer data—that was good and valuable, but it’s static data,” says Cyrus Krohn, a former Republican National Committee e-campaign director and founder of the political-tech startup Crowdverb. “The Democrats have figured out how to harness dynamic data on top of static data.”

Health information technology are proceeding slowly, and are not nearly as useful at this point as the tools used in elections, consumer marketing, finance and many other parts of the economy. Health care was slow to get into the game, but the stimulus law started to move things along when Obama was first elected, and results are starting to come.

Interestingly, national health IT coordinator Farzad Mostashari makes a similar point, when he addressed a post-election crowd yesterday.

“It was something of a relief that data matters, that science matters, that predictions can be based on evidence,” he said, adding that there was also “relief in seeing a truce in data.”

“We sometimes see this in our corner of the world, where the preponderance of the evidence, the 92 percent of studies, can be positive and show benefits, but if there is uncertainty and differences,” others can play up a narrative of opposing realities, Mostashari said.

I sure hope the data analyst nerds’ big contribution to election victories will serve as an example for those in health care who are looking to move the ball forward and the public at large who now see what data can do.

November 8, 2012

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