As the US healthcare system continues to adopt electronic health records, the amount of data available digitally will continue to expand, giving rise to big data in the healthcare sector. Big data presents an opportunity when properly analyzed and utilized. Already, progress has been made in rapid healthcare analytics of big data, and there are new opportunities for CIOs looking to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and cost management.
Big data in healthcare presents its own unique challenges because of the diversity of the data. There are data from the doctor’s medical notes, the prescription, the laboratory, the insurance, medical imaging, and so on. This is further complicated by the fact that similar illnesses may be reported differently by different hospitals, complicating the analytical process.
However, big data presents some unique advantages, and healthcare CIOs that are not taking advantage of the huge, unstructured data in their care are doing themselves and their patients a disservice. A data scientist could organize data, find associations and correlations, and make predictions that have the potential to improve healthcare outcome, save lives, and reduce cost.
Better Healthcare Outcomes With Health Analytics
In terms of better outcomes, big data analysis can help predict what might be wrong with a patient, reducing the number of laboratory tests the patient would have undergone, and subsequently, the cost of the service. Data mining and other advanced data analytics techniques could also be used for advanced patient profiling that would help select individuals or patients in need of preventive medicine or lifestyle modification.
It can also help determine the best treatment course or regimen for each patient, which could be based on the genome of the patient referenced against previous patient history. This is because big data analysis can also be employed in natural history or disease course, not just in pattern recognition.
The trend and patterns discovered after healthcare big data analysis would help doctors and healthcare workers develop better diagnoses and treat disease more effectively.
The cost of healthcare in the US is nearly two times that of other developed countries. One of the criticisms of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was that it didn’t do enough to tackle healthcare costs. While there are speculations about the future of the Affordable Care Act following the election of Donald Trump, it’s increasingly clear that reduction of healthcare cost through legislation will be difficult.
Healthcare big data analytics, on the other hand, has the potential to help reduce cost in a number of ways. First, healthcare analytics could help in identifying high-cost patients early on so that they can be managed more effectively since 5% of patients in the US account for 50% of the healthcare spending. Second, healthcare analytics can also help reduce the presence of frauds as the consistency and accuracy of claims can easily be checked and dubious claims flagged up.
Some experts have suggested that hospitals could create a new revenue stream by licensing their data to third parties, such as pharmaceutical. Pharmaceuticals will also find benefits from having such data, which might reduce the cost of drug research and creation.
It is not only the big pharmaceutical companies that will benefit. Even Basic Life Support professionals undergoing BLS recertification online can be better trained on the most important basic lifesaving interventions based on risk areas in the society highlighted by big data analytics. Identifying national healthcare trends from big national healthcare data can help predict and highlight national health decline, especially as the US life expectancy declined in December 2016 for the first time since 1993.
There are many issues to be resolved before the full potential of healthcare analytics can be unleashed. Some of these issues involve new techniques in analyzing the data, smarter apps, more skilled data analysts willing to work in the healthcare sector, and so on. The government also has to address issues of privacy, guarantee security, and set standards and guidelines to prevent abuse.
Big data analytics is revolutionizing businesses and the techniques, tools, and technologies continue to evolve. Health analytics is already playing catch up to other industry, and CIOs that ignore health analytics today will be left behind.
It would be a mistake to think that healthcare big data analytics will solve all of US health problems. But if its potential is actualized, there is no doubt it will be a huge step in the right direction.