The global population of human beings has been roughly estimated to have touched the figure of 7 billion by now. Also, the last two decades have seen a very high surge in the world getting digitally connected in an amazing way – thanks to the rapid penetration of computers, the Internet and finally the mobile phone internet access that has now brought even the remotest areas of third world nations and most advanced regions of developed nations on the same platform.
Together, these two facts give rise to a startling observation – the world is growing fast in human population with more complex and voluminous health challenges to be met with, and this human population is churning out gigantic amounts of data in every walk of its life, every moment. And that’s where the potentially game-changing implications of Big Data into the healthcare sector begin to appear. As a matter of fact, many agencies focused on healthcare research and care delivery have already begun experimenting with Big Data implementation in their operations.
In a survey based study titled ‘The Big Data Cure’, the IT research firm MeriTalk has suggested that around 35 percent federal healthcare executives are using Big Data to improve patient care, 31 percent are reducing care costs, 28 percent are improving health outcomes, and 22 percent are increasing early detection.
Let’s have a look into how Big Data can revolutionize the healthcare sector, and how are the industry players and partners trying to make the best out of this opportunity. While in other business sectors, Big Data Analytics is primarily helpful in boosting sales, revenues and profits; in healthcare industry the approach helps in a multitude of ways apart from realizing the usual business benefits. It might help healthcare enterprises in arriving at nearly accurate predictions of serious epidemics, assessing drug impacts in curing various diseases, enhancing the overall quality of life of the general public by precise estimations regarding their lifestyle based behavioral patterns, and remarkably cutting down the dead count imminent due to various reasons. Still, there are a few prominent manners in which Big Data Analytics may be of great use to the healthcare sector, which is as follows:
Devices ranging from health monitoring smartphone apps, pedometers, blood pressure monitors or even calorie counters, these devices keep the users aware of their current health status and also generate a huge amount of data that is highly useful for the healthcare bodies to analyze. For example, in developed nations, the patients have reportedly already begun sharing their personal health data accumulated through these devices with their doctors and clinics for arriving at better decisions and suggestions for them.
Even the healthy public will also be able to contribute to the large pool of general health database, in order for the healthcare governing bodies and consortia to take preemptive steps against any possible epidemics or large scale disorders. Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance in the U.S. is such a consortium that has been working towards accumulating health data from a large variety of sources including publishing health records, sensor data and also genetic health data for analyzing it and offering better insights to the industry partners.
Variety – The gigantic datasets received and accumulated by healthcare data scientists for analysis will consist a vast variety of data types and forms. For example, email communications between patients and their doctors will form unstructured data, their test related laboratory documents or reports will represent a different type of data, sales figures and predictions of pharmaceutical companies will denote something entirely different, and disease and epidemic records across large areas will be structured differently. Which essentially means, for the healthcare sector to benefit from the Big Data in a smart and truly enhanced manner, complicated yet swift data sorting and simplification procedures will turn more than mandatory to be put in place.
About the Author –
Shantanu Chaturvedi is director of technology at Stepout Solutions. Visualr, a data visualization tool by Stepout Solutions helps in exploring business insights by converting data into information. You can connect with him on LinkedIn to know more about his work.