How Big Data and Analytics are Transforming Healthcare

Today, Big Data is one of the most talked about topics in the business world today and that goes for the healthcare industry as well. By now, you’ve probably heard some buzz about big data and analytics, but you still not know exactly what it means, why you should care or why it matters for those of us working in the healthcare industry.

To provide a foundation to work off of, we’ll start by defining what Big Data is in a nutshell. Big Data is “high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation,” according to the Gartner IT Glossary.

The majority of healthcare organizations have taken notice of the importance of big data; nearly 80% of providers feel leveraging big data is important to their organization, but at the same time, 84 percent feel that doing so is a significant challenge, according to a survey from the eHealth Initiative and the College of Health information management Executives.

With Big Data clearly becoming a big deal to healthcare organizations, the questions still remains: How is big data changing healthcare?

  • Improving preventative care

  • Increasing overall quality of care

  • Reducing cost

 


Improving Preventative Care

One of the areas of healthcare most impacted by the rise of Big Data is preventative care, which helps doctors defend against disease before they have a chance to fully take hold. Health monitors, which provide a constant stream of physiological data, including a patient’s vital signs or heart rate, are become increasingly more common. Subtle changes in these data could signify a larger underlying medical problem, however, there’s simply too much data for the human mind to process in real time.

With an electronic system that automatically monitors and tracks health data in real time, warning signs can be detected almost immediately. Having the ability to detect problems before they happen, such as infections or strokes, means that doctors can deliver life saving treatments faster than ever before and, in some cases, cure a debilitating disease before it ever has a chance to do any serious damage.

 

Increasing Overall Quality of Care

When it comes to patient care, many hospitals and medical professionals now realize the importance of going beyond simply treating physical ailments. For these professionals, how a patient feels emotionally about staff behavior, a facility’s environmental conditions or the billing experience also make up the patient experience.

Hospital are healthcare organizations are using big data as a tool to quantify patient care and the patient experience. For example, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio significantly improved its patient experience by leveraging analytics. Their CEO, DR. Delos Cosgove, used analytics to conduct both quantitative and qualitative studies on what patients expected from the clinic. The findings proved to be much different than they expected, providing deep and unforeseen insight into their organization. The results revealed that the patients valued respect, clear and consistent communication and a happy hospital staff.

Gaining these types of insights is the first step towards actually improving patient care but, until now, there hasn’t been an effective way to gather the data. There are now countless platforms and methods for collecting data and generating analytics. For example, social media comments can be looked into to reveal that patients feel discontent with their staff experienced. An advanced analytics platform could quantify the range of emotions. Moreover, analytics can be used to analyze and identify trending topics on twitter and determine which are the most important for the healthcare industry. With big data, the opportunities for insight into an organization are virtually endless.

 

Reducing Cost

Healthcare organizations looking to cut costs are now using big data as a main tool for doing so. With analytics, IT healthcare professionals can capture and analyze endless amounts of healthcare data to obtain new insights.

Doctors are always looking for ways to improve time to treatment and, with today’s huge patient loads, treating patients more efficiently is a key way to reduce costs and save additional lives. However, rapidly delivering care means that doctors must be able to make well-informed decisions quickly. Analytics and data make this possible providing actionable information on demographic trends, lifestyle choices and symptoms. Now, a doctor can grab a tablet and look at data that represents trends in millions of patients to make a more accurate diagnoses and administer the best treatment possible without even needing to leaving the exam room.

 

Big Data and the Future of the Healthcare Industry

In this blog, we’ve barely even scratched the services in terms of the potential applications and benefits of Big Data. Cloud platforms, along with analytics and mobile technology, are ushering in a new era of higher-quality patient care at reduced caused. And, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, Big Data could save American a whopping $450 billion annually through cost cutting measures. With these tools, doctors can have the information they want at an instant, patients can give immediate feedback and the quality of care can be improved across the board. It remains to be seen what new ways doctors and healthcare professionals will come up with to use analytics tools. If the current trend continues, both healthcare providers and patients will continue to benefit in new and innovative ways.

 

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Image Credits: irevolutions

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