Google Founder Larry Page made a controversial statement that 100,000 lives could be saved next year if Big Data of healthcare information was used. According to a review of big data analytics of the Health Information Science and Systems (HISS), “The healthcare industry historically has generated large amounts of data, driven by record keeping, compliance & regulatory requirements, and patient care. While most data is stored in hard copy form, the current trend is toward rapid digitization of these large amounts of data. Driven by mandatory requirements and the potential to improve the quality of healthcare delivery meanwhile reducing the costs, these massive quantities of data (known as ‘big data’) hold the promise of supporting a wide range of medical and healthcare functions, including among others clinical decision support, disease surveillance, and population health management.”
And while there has been much debate surrounding its usage, there is no doubt that Big Data is causing a revolution in the US healthcare industry.
What exactly is Big Data?
Large amounts of data become “big data” when it has these three characteristics: volume, variety and velocity. While volume and variety are easily understandable, velocity refers to the analytics of data in real-time. Traditionally, data analytics are done over a period of time – annually, quarterly, monthly, etc – but never real-time. When large amounts of a variety of data are analyzed real-time, this is Big Data.
When you have Big Data on your hands in a hospital setting, you are looking at thousands of reports that show trends, probabilities and projections that can help the industry make important decisions.
What does this mean?
Big Data Means Bigger Opportunities
Big Data will undoubtedly have huge implications for everyone involved in the healthcare industry – from patients, providers, researchers, payers to other constituents. And experts say the changes Big Data will drive about are only just beginning. There is value created by the use of big data. If the U.S. healthcare system were to use Big Data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300bn in value every year. (source)
There have been very promising pathways of big data as shown below:
- Kaiser Permanente has been using Big Data gathered from all their hospitals to help determine the risk of sepsis in preterm and newborn babies in their hospitals.
- As part of the Obama administration’s Big Data and Development Initiative, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched its new Virtual Research Data center. Rather than wait for CMS to analyze data, this research data canter will have the ability to access, analyze and use all the data coming in real-time (velocity is one characteristic of big data), speeding up time and research. Blue Shield of California and AstraZeneca have also been doing partnerships in healthcare delivery to improve patient outcomes.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) even opened a sector for data science. Philip Bourne, Ph. D, the first permanent associate director for data science, sees that capacity of Big Data to “leverage the collective power of information”. He oversees the creation of a data discovery index to facilitate data sharing and accessibility among NIH researchers.
- Chicago’s NorthShore University launched an application called “What’s Going Around” that analyzes electronic health records (EHR) to pinpoint spikes in diseases in geographical locations. What this does is provide data to physicians in real time to allow them to take preventive measures and targeted care. They also have launched the Undiagnosed Hypertension Project that develops algorithms and predictive modeling based on blood pressure readings of patients identified at risk for undiagnosed hypertension.
- And the opportunities don’t stop with just EHR in hospital settings. According to research, data from wireless, wearable devices like FitBits and data collected from fitness and health apps in smartphones are expected to flood providers and insurers by 2019, reaching $52 million. Another untapped gold mine of healthcare data is social media.
Is Big Data a Cure-All for Healthcare? No.
Eerke Boiten, director of Interdisciplinary Cyber Security at the University of Kent said that, “Big Data isn’t some magic weapon that can solve all our problems and whether Page wants to admit it or not, it won’t save thousands of lives in the near future.”
This holds an ounce of truth. Inasmuch as Big Data holds much promise in unlocking future healthcare delivery services, it is the human infrastructure behind all the big data collection and analysis that makes it all possible. While the big data hype is true – we can certainly do things we haven’t done before – a huge load of human resources involving IT is needed behind the scenes. And this has presented a lot of challenges, with competitions to work with Google and Facebook attracting the highly qualified and able number of workers that are experts working with big data.
Big Data Helps Healthcare Become Patient Centric
Let’s go beyond technology, privacy, policy, security and ethical issues, when EHRs are accessible to the main person – the patient – the healthcare dynamic is changed. The healthcare delivery becomes patient-centric, making the patient engaged and more educated about his condition and care. It stops just being a means of documentation but becomes one of the tools doctors use to treat patients. Is Big Data just a trend in healthcare? We hope this wouldn’t be the case. That is just what Big Data is about – combine a trillion EHRs together and you get Big Data. Bottomline? You still get to help patients.
No matter how cliché the statement, “Health is wealth” can be, it is definitely something that each individual should take into account. Need not worry though, because we can provide your medical institution all the assistance you’ll need through our exceptional patient services such as billing, coding, and even back office responsibilities. Learn more!