How big data is disrupting the healthcare industry

Big data is enabling real-time monitoring, better preventative care, fraud prevention and more.

IT in healthcare
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From retail and hospitality to manufacturing and the legal industry, big data has been radically changing the way decision makers work in all fields for the past few years, and healthcare is no exception.

Now, many people would be quick to point out that medical research has always relied heavily on data analytics, and that’s true. However, big data has made a slow creep into the rest of the healthcare system. To learn more, let’s examine a few ways that big data is disrupting healthcare and how it's reshaping the future of healthcare.   

Almost too much information

This is what it all boils down to. Data analytics is nothing new to healthcare, however, the amount of data and the variety of sources brought on by the smartphone, the smart home, and the “smart age,” if you will, has been a bit overwhelming. The potential lying dormant in those mountains of data has not gone unnoticed though.

As our data analytics software gets easier to use and becomes more intuitive thanks to breakthroughs in AI and deep learning, it’s getting easier for healthcare providers to connect those massive piles of data and draw relevant conclusions from them.  

Predictive analytics, preventative care

Many, many years ago, Benjamin Franklin opined, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While he was referring to fire prevention, the quote holds weight in medicine. Simply put, preventing an illness (in theory) is easier than treating one, and easier to deal with from the patient perspective. Unfortunately, human beings generally aren’t known for being overly concerned with health issues before they become a real problem (especially men – say what you will but the jury’s in).

Thankfully, smart technology paired with big data analytics has the ability to bring preventative healthcare into focus and make it easier for providers and patients alike through the following:

Real-time monitoring and the IoT

The modern human is a busy one, and while all of our smart technology is extremely convenient and improves our quality of life, it’s also very distracting. There is no official statistic behind this statement, but, if you’ve had to take medication for a week or more, you have forgotten to take a pill at least once. For most of us, monitoring our health doesn’t always rank too high on the to-do list, and even when it does – oh, hang on, my phone just buzzed…

My point is, it’s easy to forget to take your medication. While that may not be a major problem if you’re just dealing with the flu or a similar everyday illness, it can have major ramifications if, for example, you’re diabetic. While big data can’t solve the issue of real-time health monitoring by itself, big data combined with the internet of things can.

According to the MapR Guide to Big Data in Healthcare, healthcare IoT spending is set to exceed $120 billion within the next four years. All of that information from wearable tech and smart monitoring devices will allow doctors to check in on their patients without a visit and set up alerts, so if a patient’s glucose levels drop or they forget to take their medication, a reminder can be sent out automatically.

From a patient perspective, increased continuity of care will be the most noticeable effect of big data.      

Fraud prevention

From a healthcare or insurance provider perspective, one of the more noticeable changes brought on by the big data boom will be fraud prevention. Medical insurance fraud and prescription fraud have not always been easy crimes to identify, let alone prove. New data analytics software can automatically recognize red flags and suspicious patterns in health records to prevent fraud and prove that its happened when a crime occurs.

Big data has made a widespread impact on the health industry, and it’s only getting started. As the technology progresses and healthcare providers become more comfortable using it, the entire way we view the healthcare system will change. Doctors appointments will be replaced by video chats and automatic alerts, the emphasis on preventative care will continue to grow, and overall, our quality of life will improve. It may be a bumpy ride integrating big data into healthcare, but the destination will be worth it.

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