There have been tremendous advances in the quantity of data we regularly generate and collect in all areas of our lives, as well as applications to ascertain and analyze it. This crossroads is referred to as “Big Data” and it is aiding companies in a wide range of industries to become more effective and streamlined.
Healthcare is no exception.
Big Data in healthcare helps to foresee outbreaks, find cures for diseases, enhance quality of life, and escape avoidable deaths. These patient benefits are in addition to improving earnings and reducing unnecessary operating costs.
The collective goal of caretakers is to understand the entire patient, and flagging signs of serious illness early in life so treatment is more effective and less expensive in the long run. With our global population growing and people living longer than ever before, treatment delivery is quickly evolving, and data is driving the direction of these decisions.
Here is a look into how Big Data is playing a significant role within healthcare.
Millions of us utilize mobile devices to assist us in trying to live healthier lives. Smart phones were the beginning, then apps allowed us to track, measure, and document everything from 10,000 steps walked, to food consumed, to calories burned.
Today, we are on the path to seamlessly sharing this trackable data with our providers, who can leverage these insights for diagnostic purposes. Constant patient monitoring via wearable technology and the IoT will become standard and will add enormous amounts of information to big data stores. Access to massive databases of information about the state of our collective health will allow harmful situations to be prevented before they occur, and treatments available in advance. This synergistic effect supports the value-based model of care — keeping patients healthy from the onset, vs. trying to reverse disease after the fact.
Clinical Trials & Big Data
When a physician determines the best course of treatment, often utilizing a medication as a solution, there is a strong chance that the pills used were created with the support of Big Data. Data-sharing agreements among pharmaceutical companies has led to medical breakthroughs, including discoveries that medications indicated for one condition, actually have a positive outcome for an entirely different indication.
With the surge of interest in DNA testing — which has far surpassed simply pinpointing a family’s geographic origin but also providing insights into genetic predispositions including cancers and Alzheimers markers — personalized medicine has become a relevant topic in the healthcare industry. It involves tailoring medicines to a person’s unique genetic composition. Fusing someone’s personal sequence and data, then differentiating it alongside others, can help predict illness and appropriate treatment.
Safety & Privacy
Medical data is some of the most sensitive pieces of information that exists. Having protection setup to ensure the data is only in the hands of those intended to have it is critically important. Cyber criminals strategically attack systems to obtain medical records, and allegedly collect more money from embezzled health data vs stealing credit card information.
In 2015, hackers stole millions of health-related records from Anthem, a leading US health insurer. Luckily, specifics such as illnesses were not intercepted, only contact names and mailing addresses were retrieved. Unfortunately, however, an even larger scale security breach is seemingly inevitable when patient records will be entirely lost.
While these concerns and challenges are not taken lightly, the upside possibilities for Big Data is still greater than the alternative. Sure, centralization of medical data can bring about apprehension, but if solid security and protection is put in place, it will have an integral role in expanding innovative treatments and understanding the intricacies of our health.
Embracing Big Data
There are a few trends that are encouraging the healthcare industry to adopt big data.
The first trend is the transition from a “pay-for-service” model that financially compensates providers for performing procedures, to a “value-based” care model, which rewards providers based on the health of their patient populations. Analytics from healthcare data will allow the calculation and documentation of population health.
The second trend that is driven by Big Data insights is to convey knowledge that is evidence-based, which will improve productivity and help providers increase their understanding of the best protocols in relation to diseases, injuries or illnesses.