How Much Impact Will Big Data Have On Healthcare?

How is big data changing healthcare now and in the future?


Healthcare is an industry that can benefit significantly from the use of big data and analytics, although it is currently lagging behind in terms of uptake due to the restrictive policy-driven protection that surrounds medical data.

However, as the ability to anonymize data has developed due to new technological innovations, the implementation of successful big data initiatives is likely to have an exponential effect on the industry. This data driven impact is a widely held belief too, with Health IT Analytics claiming that 95% of global healthcare leaders believe patient care is likely to change drastically.

This future may be closer than many people realize and almost every healthcare provider is utilizing data in one way or another at the moment. According to the Guardian, ‘Most healthcare organizations today are using two sets of data: retrospective data, basic event-based information collected from medical records, and real-time clinical data, the information captured and presented at the point of care (imaging, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart rate, etc).’ That being said, there are still several limitations to what can be done.

The reason behind these limitations come from poor practices in the past that have damaged the reputation of data use in healthcare. For instance, the UK’s NHS lost the data of 3,000 patients in 2013 and CNN reported that 90% of health care organizations in the US have exposed their patients' data or had it stolen in 2012 or 2013. With these historical failures, people are wary of allowing medical organizations to access their personal information.

If this taboo around data security can be broken, the benefits will be huge.

One of the biggest elements is going to be the ability to track and study diseases in ways not possible before. Through accessing the symptoms and specific elements of diseases in individuals, it is possible to track how they react to different strains of the disease, allowing for personalized treatment and diagnosis.

Through looking at the reactions of specific drugs in different patients, it will also give healthcare providers the best opportunities to provide the most effective treatments. For instance, if a certain drug works better for 45 year old caucasian ex-smokers than other groups, specific drugs can be created for this group, rather than using the same drug across all demographics.

Real-time data analysis will also allow physicians to monitor their patients at all times, meaning tell-tale signs of bad health can be flagged and treated before they develop further. Alongside this are the benefits that come with monitoring healthy adults, as it can create the most accurate picture of effective functions, allowing for even small variances to be identified and analyzed.

It is not only in the use of diagnosis and treatment that data will have an impact either. In a survey from Health IT Analytics of senior financial hospital executives, over half claimed that they have achieved significant ROI from adopting data in their payment systems. The performance of hospitals and doctors can therefore be better analyzed through analytics, leading to a better patient experience and better healthcare in the long run.

Healthcare is in the midst of a data revolution, but it is being held back by recent mistakes mentioned above. Once healthcare providers have managed to create confidence in their ability to store data effectively, this will change and could open up a new era for healthcare. 

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