What healthcare costs tell us about the value of data

Healthcare costs have long been a thorn in the side of U.S. businesses. But there’s another significant expense category that dwarfs health spending: low-quality data.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, private health insurance expenditures by U.S. businesses totaled $1.1 trillion in 2016. That’s a big number, but not necessarily a surprising one. The ever-increasing size of these obligations is one of the reasons Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan are trying to do an end run around traditional health insurance by offering their own employee health coverage.

Now consider another outsized business expense that gets far less attention. It has been estimated that in 2016 U.S. companies wasted $3.1 trillion on bad data. Said one analyst:

The reason bad data costs so much is that decision makers, managers, knowledge workers, data scientists, and others must accommodate it in their everyday work. And doing so is both time-consuming and expensive. The data they need has plenty of errors, and in the face of a critical deadline, many individuals simply make corrections themselves to complete the task at hand.

The fact that U.S. companies spend 182% more on data than healthcare puts a fine point on the eternal challenge of data management within an organization. 

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