Making Sense of Big Data for Today's Health Care Sector


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The tagline on the IBM Watson Foundations website declares “Make data make sense” and that’s just what IBM’s Charlie Schick, PhD did for Summit attendees as he led a fascinating and informative discussion on Big Data, outlining what it means to today’s world of health care and ultimately, how it might impact those in optical.

As director of Healthcare & Life Sciences for the IBM Watson Foundations, Schick briefly traced the paradigm shift that led to the rise of Big Data. Using IBM as an example, he illustrated how the company’s data computing capabilities have evolved from tabulating to programmable to cognitive.

Ultimately, he said, “Big Data is all data and there really aren’t any technological barriers to the adoption of analytics.” Schick emphasized that the problem is not technology but organizational barriers that prevent companies from becoming Big Data adopters. “If you’re not data driven you won’t be successful,” he warned the audience. “We have entered a new era of computing enabling new opportunities and outcomes.”

Schick has studied how Big Data is being utilized by hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance companies and he shared specific examples of how IBM has partnered with various health care organizations to substantially improve the quality of health care offered.

“Health care providers identify gaps in care with health analytics to reduce costs and improve outcomes.” He pointed to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which personalized its web content to educate some 3 million members. Using clinical, claims and financial data, BCBS was able to improve member experience, resulting in a better view of health data and more comprehensive coverage.

The benefits of Big Data are obvious in health care sectors such as medical research where hospitals are now able to discover connections between drugs, disease and genetics to provide better care. But how do these Big Data procedures translate to the eyewear sector?

Something as basic as using data to understand results and effectiveness of email campaigns can make a big difference. Schick advised using the power of Big Data analytics to create “an omnichannel 360 view of customers, enabling retailers to track high value customers, improve marketing effectiveness and target consumers based on unique preferences and histories.

“In the eyewear industry, Big Data is giving suppliers insights about their customers as they gather data from different sources to understand consumers’ needs. This is what retail is all about, getting the full view to understand the customer.”

Charlie Schick, PhD
Director, IBM Watson Foundations,
Healthcare and Life Sciences

Charlie Schick, PhD, is director for IBM Watson Foundations, Healthcare and Life Sciences, responsible for driving solution development, sales consulting and go-to-client activities. IBM Watson Foundations is IBM’s foundational Big Data and Analytics components for the cognitive era, with an analytics platform that uniquely delivers innovative capabilities to help organizations outperform the competition. Prior to IBM, Schick worked at Boston Children’s Hospital, and at Nokia, in Finland. During his career, he has designed and launched web and mobile products; and provided Internet, social media and editorial strategy consulting services. He has a graduate degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.