How Is Healthcare Sector Leveraging Big Data Technologies?

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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:


  • Exponentially Increasing Health Data The surge of information technology and connectivity has resulted in a boom of connected devices among even the lower-middle class households of the third world nations nowadays. Especially the teenagers and young consumers are increasingly getting more tech savvy and health conscious at the same time, which has given rise to rapidly increasing adoption of wearable health monitoring devices that only generate regular data but also upload the same upon their servers.

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.

  • Core Pillars of Big Data in Healthcare

    Volume- The applications and implications of Big Data in the healthcare sector will, in general, get affected by three core factors connecting the two. The first one among them is the size of data that is increasing in an exponential manner moment by moment. According to a research paper published by IDC in collaboration with Seagate, the entire world will be producing around 163 ZB (Zettabytes) of data every year, by the year 2025. Right now, this figure stands at around 16.3 ZB, while 1 ZB = 1 Trillion GB or Gigabytes. Not only this, the research paper also estimates that around 60% of this data will be created by enterprises, including healthcare organizations. This, for sure, offers an idea of how crucial is Big Data going to be for every sector, and healthcare to needs to brace itself to be able to leverage the best out of this huge data in near future.Velocity –The frequency of data being exchanged from end-points to end-points across the globe too is going to make a huge impact on how Big Data will play a meaty role in transforming shape of the healthcare sector. For example, the data accumulation through traditional sources such as healthcare facilities, government health organization records or sample survey agencies will be much less frequent than the same being transmitted directly through users via various connected devices and apps. In other words, the healthcare decision makers will prefer to bank more upon the direct user-transmitted data for gaining quick insights into the situations, while the traditionally accumulated data will be more helpful in formulating long time policies and strategies.

    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.

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