Harnessing Big Data to Unravel Health Care Resources

by Priya Menon


big data
Image courtesy:http://www.kdnuggets.com/


Big Data is overhauling the healthcare industry. The human genome met its match when one of the first applications of big data decoded the DNA sequence for the very first time. Though it took a considerable period of time (read many years) initially, you can sequence DNA in a matter of few hours these days.

Big Data in health care is not limited to decoding the DNA; it has made a big foray into the healthcare industry. The US health care system is rapidly adopting electronic health records, which will increase the quantity of clinical data that will become available electronically. Big Data enabled analysis and gleaning techniques of large quantities of data would offer ample opportunities for research into illnesses and treatments which are not yet in our cognizance. There are many chronic diseases which doctors continue to research to understand how best to treat them. Collecting large amounts of data for a specific illness and comparing it on a large base with different factors helps in this ongoing research and Big Data and techniques triumphs as a boon here.

Data originating from healthcare is growing. This data is unstructured but clinically important. Data from labs, doctor’s notes, hospital correspondence, insurance claims, finance, etc reside in multiple places. Access to this valuable data in a comprehensive manner require tools which Big Data techniques makes available – all information regarding a patient is captured to get a complete insight into coordination of treatment, outcome based reimbursement, health management, patient outreach and engagement.

So in all, unleashing the power of big data opens up a plethora of possibilities, 

–   Increased access to healthcare

–   Collaborations leading to improved health care

–   Personalized health care

–   Greater patient engagement

–   Huge amounts of structured and analysed data for investigations/research

–   Sustainable healthcare organizations 

Some of the hurdles that have to be crossed when we talk about big data and yes, we are talking about huge volumes of data is integration. Integration of data will require collaboration across private and public sectors. Leveraging heterogeneous datasets and securely linking them has the potential to improve health care by identifying the right treatment for the right individual or subgroup. The NIH recently launched Big Data to Knowledge Initiative (BD2K) to enable biomedical research community improved access, management, and utilization of big data.

Once integrated, naturally the next step in the flow will be coming up with new data or generating unique data after analysis of existing ones. This is the critical step, here we generate new, standardized, analysed and linked data for further use. Other than administrative and clinical data, integration of data about a patient and his environment may provide better predictions and help in the target of interventions in the right patient group.  These predictions may help identify new areas to improve both efficiency and quality in health care in areas like adverse events, readmissions, treatment optimization and early identification of deteriorating health states .

And finally for big data to be successful, it must translate into practical application. Big Data is an important challenge for both who generate as well as those who consume the new knowledge. Users like patients, policymakers, and physicians should engage right from the beginning to understand how this new knowledge can be translated into practice.

Paul Muller, VP of HP Software Marketing shared the following statistics:

In 2012, the estimated digital healthcare data across the globe was approximately 500 Petabytes. This is expected to reach 25,000 petabytes by the end of 2020, which is 50 times more.

This goes to say that having better ways to analyze this data helps drive better healthcare outcomes.


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