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How Surfing Helps Explain Predictive Analytics

Posted by Conor Farley on January 28, 2016

With Medalogix being headquartered in Nashville, TN you might not expect to see a blog discuss the similarities between analytics-based home health population health management and a surf break. If you bear with me for about 800 words, I promise I’ll connect the dots.


I’ve been in Nashville for years but am originally from San Diego, California. 15 years ago I met the girl of my dreams who happened to be from Nashville. As the story unfolds, I’m now a landlocked surfer who says y’all.

When I started working at Medalogix, a home health analytics company, I began to really understand the importance of the work we were doing after I saw the parallels between surf-prediction technologies and patient-predictive technologies like the ones we build. Let me explain.

Even though I grew up surfing the same spots of beach over and over again (because they were closest to my house) the waves were always different. All waves at that specific break are unique. Truly, no two are the same. It’s because the ocean floor beneath them--whether sand, reef, rock or a varying combination--all affect the way the natural force of the ocean makes its way to the coastlines. The wave’s variables don’t stop there though. Then, storms, winds, moon phases, tide changes and more phenomena help dictate the creation, power and size at which those waves hit the aforementioned surf break. When those waves hit the shoreline, depending on the topography below, they form a unique break.

Without getting overly nuanced, you can see there are a ton of factors that play into whether or not the surf will be good at a certain surf spot. And it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve surfed that same spot (or treated the same type of patient...we'll get there), it’s always going to be unique.

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this?...

When my dad was growing up in San Diego, he’d go down to the beach every morning to see if all of these components described above were in alignment. Relying on his own instincts, education and experience about waves, he’d determine if it would be a good day to surf.

In the mid 80s, technology emerged that allowed forecasters to understand how storms were forming and predict what the size, direction and swell might look like at your specific local break. The meteorologists would then factor in tidal swings to further inform surfers of the optimal time of day to get to the beach--this way, we’d know when to skip out on school or work. This technology has revolutionized the way surfers chase waves to the point where today, surfers will take red eye flights from Northern California to the Baja Peninsula to catch a swell at the exact time the surf forecaster predicted would be best.

This is not to say that a surfer does not rely on his or her own instint, education and experience as well--rather, they now have a fourth dimension of understanding with the new technology and are better equipped and informed.

Managing a home health population can be similar to understanding a surf break. Agencies are seeing thousands of patients daily and none are exactly same. Of course we can look at a patient's diagnosis and leverage our instinct, education and experience, but each case will require specific unique care planning for the optimal care outcome. Some patients will require more attention and some less depending on so many variables--and many times, the human eye alone can’t fully assess all the variables. You need a technology to help you assess all of those variables to help predict the best outcome. Medalogix helps agencies take better care of this diverse patient pool by predicting outcomes before they happen so an agency can intervene in a more appropriate and timely matter.

Like surf-forecasting technology takes into account historical and real time variables, Medalogix was built on millions of historical clinical records and takes into account the variability of risk during each unique patient episode. Equipped with this additional intelligence, clinicians can better care for their patients.

If you want to talk more about how these analytics-based home health technologies can help your organization, or just talk about surfing, email me. Conor@medalogix.com

Topics: Medalogix Culture, Data and Analytics Review, Healthcare Industry

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