Big Data has changed the way we manage, analyse and leverage data in any industry. One of the most promising areas where it can be applied to make a change is healthcare. Healthcare analytics have the potential to reduce costs of treatment, predict outbreaks of epidemics, avoid preventable diseases and improve the quality of life in general. Average human lifespan is increasing along world population, which poses new challenges to today’s treatment delivery methods. Health professionals, just like business entrepreneurs, are capable of collecting massive amounts of data and look for best strategies to use these numbers. In this article, we would like to address the need of big data in healthcare: why and how can it help? What are the obstacles to its adoption? We will then provide you with 12 big data examples in healthcare that already exist and that we benefit from.
What Is Big Data in Healthcare?
The application of big data analytics in healthcare has a lot of positive and life-saving outcomes. Big data refers to the vast quantities of information created by the digitization of everything, that gets consolidated and analysed by specific technologies. Applied to healthcare, it will use specific health data of a population (or of a particular individual) and potentially help to prevent epidemics, cure disease, cut down costs, etc.
Now that we live longer, treatment models have changed and many of these changes are namely driven by data. Doctors want to understand as much as they can about a patient and as early in their life as possible, to pick up warning signs of serious illness as they arise – treating any disease at an early stage is far more simple and less expensive. With healthcare data analytics, prevention is better than cure and managing to draw a comprehensive picture of a patient will let insurances provide a tailored package. This is the industry’s attempt to tackle the siloes problems a patient’s data has: everywhere are collected bits and bites of it and archived in hospitals, clinics, surgeries, etc., with the impossibility to communicate properly.
Indeed, for years gathering huge amounts of data for medical use has been costly and time-consuming. With today’s always-improving technologies, it becomes easier not only to collect such data but also to convert it into relevant critical insights, that can then be used to provide better care. This is the purpose of healthcare data analytics: using data-driven findings to predict and solve a problem before it is too late, but also assess methods and treatments faster, keep better track of inventory, involve patients more in their own health and empower them with the tools to do so.
Why We Need Big Data Analytics in Healthcare
There’s a huge need for big data in healthcare as well, due to rising costs in nations like the United States. As a McKinsey report states, “After more than 20 years of steady increases, healthcare expenses now represent 17.6 percent of GDP —nearly $600 billion more than the expected benchmark for a nation of the United States’s size and wealth.”
In other words, costs are much higher than they should be, and they have been rising for the past 20 years. Clearly, we are in need of some smart, data-driven thinking in this area. And current incentives are changing as well: many insurance companies are switching from fee-for-service plans (which reward using expensive and sometimes unnecessary treatments and treating large amounts of patients quickly) to plans that prioritize patient outcomes
As the authors of the popular Freakonomics books have argued, financial incentives matter – and incentives that prioritize patients health over treating large amounts of patients are a good thing. Why does this matter?
Well, in the previous scheme, healthcare providers had no direct incentive to share patient information with one another, which had made it harder to utilize the power of analytics. Now that more of them are getting paid based on patient outcomes, they have a financial incentive to share data that can be used to improve the lives of patients while cutting costs for insurance companies.
Finally, physician decisions are becoming more and more evidence-based, meaning that they rely on large swathes of research and clinical data as opposed to solely their schooling and professional opinion. As in many other industries, data gathering and management is getting bigger, and professionals need help in the matter. This new treatment attitude means there is a greater demand for big data analytics in healthcare facilities than ever before, and the rise of SaaS BI tools is also answering that need.
Obstacles to A Widespread Big Data Healthcare
One of the biggest hurdles standing in the way to use big data in medicine is how medical data is spread across many sources governed by different states, hospitals, and administrative departments. Integration of these data sources would require developing a new infrastructure where all data providers collaborate with each other.
Equally important is implementing new online reporting software and business intelligence strategy. Healthcare needs to catch up with other industries that have already moved from standard regression-based methods to more future-oriented like predictive analytics, machine learning, and graph analytics.
However, there are some glorious instances where it doesn’t lag behind, such as EHRs (especially in the US.) So, even if these services are not your cup of tea, you are a potential patient, and so you should care about new healthcare analytics applications. Besides, it’s good to take a look around sometimes and see how other industries cope with it. They can inspire you to adapt and adopt some good ideas.