Sep 15

Will Big Data be big in healthcare?

Big data (1 of 1)

It will make a difference but you will need to start small if you are going to achieve its full potential. Big data is not just about size, it aims to finds answers from complex, noisy, and large volumes of data.  We want it to answer questions that were previously unanswered, to be a true partner in the delivery of healthcare. This has never been so appropriate with the volumes and types of data growing in a chaotic manner, not only from advances in technology and Electronic Health Records (EHR) but also with the inclusion of data from genomics, social media and the internet of things.


3 ways Big Data can make a difference now to your business

  • Provide basic descriptive analytics reporting at the individual patient level as well as at the business and population health level.
  • Improve the use of technology to monitor and record patient care with optimized pick lists, visual representations of patient condition and care plans, and patient specific reminders and alerts.
  • Be part of research collaborative to learn and expand your delivery of healthcare services especially for chronic and rare conditions.

3 things you will need to address to make the most of this opportunity

  • You need to have a big data plan which includes what you are planning on analysing, how you are going to get the data; how you are going to ensure it is complete and of the best quality.
  • Purchase an Electronic Health Record that can either provide you with the technology and terminologies that you need to achieve your plan or has the capabilities to integrate with third party products that will.
  • The technology has to be easy to use; this includes inputting the data, reviewing the quality and extracting the results.

But there is an “Elephant in the room” ie a truth that no one wants to talk about.  Big Data is not Data Warehousing. While good analytic products exist which are based on data warehousing these are providing the prequel to Big Data. Big Data will not replace data warehousing analytics solutions but hopefully will learn to work side by side to achieve different but complementary objectives.    The major challenge for Big Data to achieve it’s potential in healthcare, will be affordability and the ability to provide real-time information. This may be a number of years away for larger businesses and completely out of the reach for small to medium businesses.

However, by starting small on project with limited and targeted business scope to provide answers to very specific questions will help you gain immediate results.   A great example of this is the  program called UnitedHealthcare Motion which provides insured employees with a fitness wearable device that tracks their steps. The wearable device sends the health tracking data to the UnitedHealthcare Motion app. If they meet certain goals, employees can earn health reimbursements credits, up to $1,460 per year, based on the number of steps they take.

Similarly on the technology side, start small, think of using cloud storage to keep costs down and make sure you have access to the expertise you need in the form of training, hiring or outsourcing. Without the right skills you make take way too long to achieve the results you require.




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