The True Vision of Big Data in Healthcare

October 19, 2016
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From the impact of wearable technology to the potential for boosting cancer research, there’s been a lot of buzz about big data in the healthcare space. However, the true vision of big data in healthcare lies not in individual data collection or disparate applications, but in the potential of combining healthcare data to create new resources for doctors.

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From the impact of wearable technology to the potential for boosting cancer research, there’s been a lot of buzz about big data in the healthcare space. However, the true vision of big data in healthcare lies not in individual data collection or disparate applications, but in the potential of combining healthcare data to create new resources for doctors.

New Data Sources

To conduct a recent study, researchers turned to data on social media to identify measures for stress by identifying tweets with hostile or negative language. They then turned the data into a color-coded map to predict the potential of heart disease in any given location. When researchers cross-checked their findings with a map created by traditional research, the maps were nearly identical. Based on the results, the researchers believe using external data sources to conduct big data research will be just as reliable and faster than traditional means.

Predictive Medicine

By combining disparate data sources, healthcare practitioners can also better identify patients who are at risk of developing a chronic disease and better suggest preventive tests and treatments. In addition to individual care, data can be used to identify potential disease outbreaks or hot spots, so the disease source can be quickly identified and contained.

Complete Patient Records

The healthcare industry has been notorious for its poor management of patient records. Individual health data is typically scattered across multiple files in different offices, and what is stored electronically is rarely shared between doctors. In addition, the majority of healthcare data is currently unstructured, making it difficult to sort through that data for patterns. By developing a structured system for tracking patient data, and combining data both from doctors and other sources, such as genetics and social media, healthcare professionals will have a complete profile of the patient allowing them to make better judgments and avoid costly mistakes.

Administrative Streamlining

Hospital administration consists of many moving parts. From ensuring machinery is operating properly to keeping doctors and nurses updated on the latest research and medical training. Even a basic BLS certification training takes extra time and coordination that keeps doctors away from treating patients. Companies that specialize in developing software that collects best practice information are turning to big data search engines to aggregate data, so they update best practice and patient outcome data in near real-time. By having this data readily available, doctors will be able to avoid unnecessary tests and streamline their own education.

The impact of big data on the healthcare industry is only beginning to be realized. While big data can and will be used to improve current processes, much of the benefit will come from new systems and technology that combine healthcare data with other sources to produce new insights.


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