Big data is changing the nature of healthcare. One of the biggest developments was the implementation of the Medical Information Mart for Intensive Care, which took data from 50,000 patients dating back to 2001. Big data will have an even more profound impact in the near future.
More than 15,000 hospitals around the world collect real-time data on their patients. This data includes demographic profiles, clinical history, and drugs used. Most of this data is still unprocessed. However, collecting new data is becoming easier, as patient monitoring equipment provides more than 1,000 measurements per second. It is estimated that the number of measurements will rise to 10,000 per second in the near future.
Hospitals, medical research centers, health centers, clinics, industry, administrations, drug agencies, laboratories, health websites all generate large amounts of data, which will be key to the transformation of the health system.
Digitization will improve the accuracy of predictions and efficiency of the healthcare system.
How will this revolution be set in motion? What advantages does it offer in the realm of biomedical R&D? What challenges does an unstoppable, but necessary process imply for the healthcare system? These are some of the issues under debate.
The market for big data analytics in healthcare is massive. It is expected to grow at an annual rate of 22% until 2023. These changes are not just taking place in the United States. We can look abroad to see the implicatinos of big data in the healthcare system. In Spain, digitalization is also a driving force in healthcare.
“Digitization is going to radically change health systems and the way providers of goods and services act, as it will generate new instruments capable of processing and integrating huge volumes of data that can already be used to obtain patterns of behavior and predictive models,” said Humberto Arnés, director general of Farmaindustria, in a day of biomedical innovation.
Other medical equipment manufacturers agree with this analysis.
With ‘big data’, the idea is to foster a culture of measurement in hospitals
The emphasis of big data focuses on two fields, according to Arnés. First, in biomedical research and development, where the pharmaceutical industry favors genomic diagnoses, predicts toxicities, helps simulate and design clinical trials or facilitates patient participation. “It is essential to maximize advances in genomics, proteomics [study of the structure and function of proteins] and accelerate the development of more effective and accurate drugs,” he said.
The other avenue where big data is emphasized is within the primary care system. It plays a vital role in decision-making in clinical practice and ensuring the sustainability of the health system, because it will be possible to measure the health results of each intervention performed on the patient, as well as the costs associated with it. “Decisions based on evidence and the real value provided by a new medicine or health service”, he insisted.
Challenges of using big data in healthcare
Secure data management is key to mass utilization. In fact, on 25 May, 2018, the new European Global Data Protective Requirement legislation (GDPR) came into force. This new law could create new challenges, as it is likely to curtail the relinquishment of data to third-parties, subject to prior consent, albeit anonymously or with guaranteed pseudonyms, as well as the right of revocation.
“It is essential that the new regulation is based on clinical and pre-clinical research, as well as scientific research as a whole, being considered as an activity of public interest,” said Amelia Martín Uranga, head of Farmaindustria’s Innovative Medicines platform, at the same forum.
The collaboration of all actors is necessary: politicians, managers, health professionals, patients and industry.
Humberto Arnés cites Germany as an example that “it is possible to use health data without compromising patient privacy”, following the adaptation of the European regulation to its national scope. And he hopes that the same thing will happen in Spain.
It is not the only challenge ahead. The digitization of clinical data, the standardization of this information and the high costs of technological investment are other relevant, in the opinion of Arnés.
In short, digitization will help prediction, accuracy, speed, and health efficiency. And to do so, it is necessary to count on the collaboration of all agents, warn employers, politicians, managers, health professionals, patients and industry.