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What Netflix Can Show Healthcare Providers About Using Big Data


When Emmy Award nominations were announced last week, tradition flew out the window. Instead of a line-up of potential winners from broadcast or even cable networks, four of the seven outstanding drama nominees were from streaming video services, with Netflix leading the way. It’s an impressive result for a company that launched its video streaming service only a decade ago and just started developing original programming a few years ago.

Achieving this level of success—where “Netflix and Chill” is part of everyday vernacular—only happens because Netflix has tapped into big data to understand what viewers want and how to keep them engaged. The healthcare industry has plenty of data too, and to address changing expectations driven by healthcare consumerism, hospitals would do well to make use of it.

Taking Advantage of Healthcare Data

While use of patient data is more complicated due to HIPAA regulations, there are ways to manage data privacy and security concerns. After all, the banking industry faces similar challenges, but leverages data effectively to personalize customer experiences. In fact, recent years have seen numerous advances in using genome data—comparing a person’s regular genome to a tumor genome—to develop customized treatment plans for cancer patients.

While it may have lagged behind other industries in the past, it appears that the healthcare industry now teeters on the edge leveraging data from electronic health records and other sources to greater advantage. Let’s look at what healthcare can learn from Netflix to drive better patient outcomes and experiences.

Lesson One: Evolve or Die

Netflix didn’t start out as a disruptor to traditional television networks. When it launched, the company offered convenient home delivery of DVDs in direct competition to brick-and-mortar video rentals. But when DVD rentals lagged and streaming video gained traction, Netflix shifted gears. Likewise, hospitals need to think outside the box to attract patients and support patient engagement.

Number Emmy of nominations HBO and Netflix have earned (2017: Netflix; 91 HBO; 110)Screenshot 2017-07-20 17.28.07.png

Lesson Two: Anticipate Customer Needs

Netflix uses watch history data to offer customers personalized recommendations of other movies or shows they might enjoy. Crunching viewer data also guides decision making when it comes to original programming—and as the Emmy nominations show, using those algorithms has paid off.  

Researchers at the Center for Research Informatics at the University of Chicago are taking a similar approach. A predictive modeling project called eCartn leverages data from 60,000 admissions to score patients for cardiac arrest risk. Data related to blood pressure, respiratory rates and other contributory factors are monitored and analyzed in real time for patients deemed high risk. If a patient’s risk score exceeds a certain level, a care team is dispatched to the patient’s room for an intervention. The research center’s director, Dr. Samuel Volchenboum, noted that the eCart system has proven “effective in alerting which patients are at the greatest risk of declining.”   


Lesson Three: Make Customers Want to Stay

Netflix knows that if new users can’t find movies and television programs they like, they’ll cancel their subscriptions. But not everyone wants to click through hundreds or thousands of titles to find a binge-worthy show. To reduce service abandonment, Netflix asks new users to rate movies they’ve already seen and the genres they prefer. By gathering this data in advance and using a recommendation algorithm to suggest options, Netflix keeps viewers engaged. In fact, according to Netflix data, 75 percent of viewer activity comes as a result of recommendations.



In the healthcare arena, understanding patient attitudes, motivations and behaviors using psychographic segmentation offers similar insights. For example, the Balance Seeker segment can be difficult to engage, despite being proactive and wellness oriented. The reason? They like to evaluate options on their own—not just go along with what the doctor orders. By understanding what resonates with Balance Seekers, you can curate content—just as Netflix does—to keep these patients engaged.

 Learn More about Balance Seekers ➜ 

By leveraging healthcare analytics effectively, hospitals can improve their understanding of patient populations and individual patient needs to deliver better experiences, better treatments, and better outcomes. How are you using big data?

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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