By Dana Connors, AcademyHealth

Year two, under our belts. Concordium 2016, a practical health data rodeo, once again successfully brought together health data lassoers, ropers and bronco riders in the form of data scientists, informaticians, researchers, patients and their representatives, clinicians, policymakers and other experts to address the changing field of health data analytics, and bring about delivery system transformation.The health care landscape is changing rapidly, both in implementation and from the policy perspective as we emphasize the importance of quality over quantity. The concept of a learning health system is cropping up all over the country, but no one knows quite yet what that means or how delivery systems will look.

While there are plenty of cow-pokes in the field investigating the pastures they intuitively sense are greener, Concordium 2016 attendees provide this turbulent landscape with strategy and tactics to manage the wild west of big data production and utilization. The data sheriffs are officially in town and they are doing their best to provide governance and leadership to achieve interoperability of resources and quality of records. This year’s panel presentations, posters, and demonstrations pioneered new tools and techniques working to manage data siloes and implement analytics, which will yield meaningful and fruitful results in outposts across the country.

However, the deal is not sealed. Concordium’s Challenge Workshops were a big hit with the town folk this year, as they highlighted work in progress and publications still in draft form. These town hall type meetings offered an environment where all participants could add their two cents to influence the direction of cutting edge projects and publications. Leaders who presented their work will use these diverse perspectives to refine the work they are doing in their own systems, and will soon disseminate it for the benefit of our entire health care system.

This diversity of perspective is a hallmark of the Concordium meeting, and the variety of attendees was an indicator of a new dawn in democratic decision making in health care. For a good part of our health care history it has been the physician alone who has dictated health care planning and outcomes. No one looking at the wealth of patient data and patient reported experience today believes that this system led to beneficial outcomes for the people requiring care. We are especially proud of the broad representation from patients, caregivers, and consumers who were present, and we are pleased that Concordium 2016 was accredited by Patients Included for the second year in a row for our focus on including patient, caregivers and consumers in the planning, execution and presentation of the meeting. At Concordium 2016 patients and their representatives got their say, and we are confident that all citizens of our present health care wild west will have an opportunity to shape the order of a new landscape.

This is our manifest destiny, folks. We’ll be using big data for years to come, and establishing the rules to guide our work and manage usage, without hurting each other in the process, is our present challenge. We are still roaming free, but civilized solutions are in sight, and the folks at Concordium 2016 got down to the difficult tasks of thinking through, communicating, and shaping our path to get there. We may witness some political shoot-outs in the near future, but Crystal City served as a quiet range for cultivating collaboration, and we are confident that the right folks are successfully working together to transform the face of health care.


Dana E. Connors serves as the project manager for the Electronic Data Methods (EDM) Forum, an AcademyHealth project supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). In addition to programmatic development for the Concordium meeting, he nerds out on budgets, contracts and project work plans. He is helping to manage the continued growth of eGEMS, an open access journal of the EDM Forum focused on using electronic health data to advance research and quality improvement and supports stakeholder outreach, collaborative projects, and the sustainability efforts of the EDM Forum.