Big Data is essential to every significant healthcare undertaking. Read about the challenges, applications, and potential brilliant future for healthcare big data.
What Is Big Data in Healthcare?
“Big data in healthcare” refers to the abundant health data amassed from numerous sources including electronic health records (EHRs), medical imaging, genomic sequencing, payor records, pharmaceutical research, wearables, and medical devices, to name a few. Three characteristics distinguish it from traditional electronic medical and human health data used for decision-making: It is available in extraordinarily high volume; it moves at high velocity and spans the health industry’s massive digital universe; and, because it derives from many sources, it is highly variable in structure and nature. This is known as the 3Vs of Big Data.
With its diversity in format, type, and context, it is difficult to merge big healthcare data into conventional databases, making it enormously challenging to process, and hard for industry leaders to harness its significant promise to transform the industry.
Despite these challenges, several new technological improvements are allowing healthcare big data to be converted to useful, actionable information.Despite these challenges, several new technological improvements are allowing healthcare big data to be converted to useful, actionable information.
Despite these challenges, several new technological improvements are allowing healthcare big data to be converted to useful, actionable information. By leveraging appropriate software tools, big data is informing the movement toward value-based healthcare and is opening the door to remarkable advancements, even while reducing costs. With the wealth of information that healthcare data analytics provides, caregivers and administrators can now make better medical and financial decisions while still delivering an ever-increasing quality of patient care.
There are at least two trends today that encourage the healthcare industry to embrace big data. The first is the aforementioned move from a pay-for-service model, which financially rewards caregivers for performing procedures, to a value-based care model, which rewards them based on the health of their patient populations. Healthcare data analytics will enable the measurement and tracking of population health, thereby enabling this switch. The second trend involves using big data analysis to deliver information that is evidence-based and will, over time, increase efficiencies and help sharpen our understanding of the best practices associated with any disease, injury or illness.
Using big data analysis to deliver information that is evidence-based will, over time, increase efficiencies and help sharpen our understanding of the best practices associated with any disease, injury or illness.
Undoubtedly, adopting the use of healthcare big data can transform the industry, driving it away from a fee-for-service model toward value-based care. In short, it can deliver on the promise of lowering healthcare costs while revealing ways to deliver superior patient experiences, treatments, and outcomes.
Applications for Big Data in Healthcare
Keeping patients healthy and avoiding illness and disease stands at the front of any priority list. Consumer products like the Fitbit activity tracker and the Apple Watch keep tabs on the physical activity levels of individuals and can also report on specific health-related trends. The resulting data is already being sent to cloud servers, providing information to physicians who use it as part of their overall health and wellness programs.
Already, Fitbit has partnered with United Healthcare, which rewards its insureds up to $1500 per year for exercising regularly. Informed Data Systems’ One Drop app for Android and Apple is bringing about dramatic changes in A1c for people with diabetes. Meanwhile, Apple’s HealthKit, CareKit, and ResearchKit leverage the technology embedded in Apple’s mobile devices to help patients manage their conditions and enable researchers to collect data from hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
But adoption of big data analysis in healthcare has lagged behind other industries due to challenges such as privacy of health information, security, siloed data, and budget constraints. In the meantime, 80 percent of executives from financial services, insurance, media, entertainment, manufacturing, and logistics companies surveyed report their investments in big data processing as “successful,” and more than one in five declare their big data initiatives have been “transformational” for their firms.