#8 Harnessing Big Data to Improve Healthcare


The amount of data collected each day dwarfs human comprehension and even brings most computing programs to a quick standstill. It’s estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily, with all but 10 percent of it created in just the past 24 months.

This is what’s called big data, and hospitals, medical centers, hospital systems, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies that comprise the trillion-dollar health care industry in this country are awash in it. Together, they easily amass terabytes and oftentimes petabytes of structured and unstructured data. Unfortunately, not enough of this deluge of big data sets has been systematically collected and stored, and therefore this valuable information has not been aggregated, analyzed, or made available in a format to be readily accessed to improve health care.

A leading management consulting firm recently estimated that if the United States health care industry were to effectively use the growing volume of big data to drive efficiency and quality, it would create more than $300 billion in value every year. Most of this would come from helping reduce health care expenditures by almost 8 percent.

Health care big data requires advanced technologies to efficiently process it with tolerable elapsed time, so organizations can create, collect, search, and share data, while still ensuring privacy. In this way, analytics can be applied to better hospital operations, track outcomes for clinical and surgical procedures, including length of stay, readmission rates, infection rates, mortality, and comorbidity prevention. It can also be used to benchmark effectiveness-to-cost models.

Innovative companies are now answering the call to begin mining this motherlode of untapped medical information. One company was recently formed to act as both a repository and clearinghouse of data coming from different clinics, hospitals, researchers, and doctor’s offices. The company collects, standardizes, and aggregates large-scale clinical data from their subscribing member health systems in their ever-growing national network. Their goal is to accelerate research and improve health care through real-time medical data exploration and research collaboration using their advanced computing infrastructure.

The company now provides easy-to-use Internet-based technology that enables researchers and doctors alike to use their advanced big data technology in a significant and strategic manner. This allows instantaneous real-time search, tagging, and collaboration across some of the largest data sets in the world. Not only does this help identify opportunities for drug development and innovation, but it will also result in less waste, duplication and overlapping of therapies. This dynamic data management technology makes data analysis more efficient and useful. Access to these data can also significantly shorten the time needed to track patterns of care and outcomes, and generate new knowledge. By leveraging this knowledge, leaders can dramatically improve safety, research, quality, and cost efficiency, all of which are critical factors necessary to facilitate health care reform.

With patient privacy a major concern, a HIPPA-compliant privacy framework also strips all patient identification from the data. This enables health care leaders to compare how treatment factors affected outcomes—without violating patient privacy—across millions of patients, clinical records, and diverse environments.
By finally accessing health care big data with a platform that serves both providers and life sciences, business can be run more effectively, and health care provided more economically.


Where Are They Now

Big data is becoming big business as more American hospitals digitize patient records and then analyze them to discover particular patterns that can help improve care and outcomes. With a government push and financial incentive to adopt electronic medical records, hospitals and researchers alike are using this information to find clues to the initiation of various cancers and diseases like multiple sclerosis, and to look for possible links between particular neighborhoods and the prevalence of certain medical conditions.

With new technologies such as wearables and the almost universal use of digital health records, imaging systems and genetic tests, big data analytics has only continued to grow. Insurance companies who are using big data for preventative care measures in patients with heart disease found that it results in a 40% reduction in hospital visits and related costs. The healthcare analytics market has a predicted net worth of $24.55 billion by 2021.

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