big data

How Big Data Could Save Your Life

What does the future of healthcare look like? Think of Uber, the largest taxi company, which owns no vehicles. Facebook, the most popular media owner, creates no content. And Airbnb, the largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Maybe soon in the future, the biggest medical system is going to own no hospitals. It will just be devices monitoring the lives of millions of patients in real-time to look for early symptoms and prevent diseases.

Big Data vs Traditional Data

Healthcare today is more like “sick care” where we are reacting to when we have diseases. This is the way the current healthcare system is designed as it is set up to treat the sick and not to keep us healthy in the first place. The care is reactive where we wait for the heart attack or stroke but only to discover it too late. The data that we get is lagging where we wait longer than we should for the lab results to be available. That makes healthcare expensive, discontinuous and inefficient.

In order to increase the efficiency and move beyond “sick care”, healthcare needs to become proactive and continuous while focusing on preventative measures. This is where big data comes in. Data are sourced into the server real-time from electronic health records, payor records, wearables, and medical devices, just to name a few. With its highly variable format it poses a few challenges to merge and process the data. Although, with the appropriate software tools, healthcare big data can be converted into useful information.

Getting the Most Out of Technology

In this digital age, technology is now an essential part of our everyday lives. Mobile devices and other wearables can function as an accessory to regulate the health of individuals. In the US, Fitbit teamed up with UnitedHealthcare Motion program where participants have the potential to earn up to $1000 a year by meeting daily walking goals. The program has been praised in encouraging sustained and positive behavior of participants. Meanwhile, Apple has come up with powerful software platforms by consolidating data from iPhone, Apple watch and third-party apps. HealthKit, ResearchKit, and CareKit enable users to share health data with other apps, allow researchers and developers to create apps for medical uses, and let users track and monitor their progress, respectively.

Privacy Challenges

As social media platforms and mobile applications have resulted in individuals sharing more information than ever before, an area of data privacy which is not often discussed is health data. Before Apple watches, Fitbit and other wearable devices, health data was only between the patient, the doctor and the healthcare system. One of the key challenges of adopting big data analytics in healthcare is the privacy of health information and security. This has resulted in a lag behind other industries in terms of digitalization. The technology has the potential to transform the industry but only if regulations keep up with the innovation.

Better Care

Today, healthcare is moving towards a value-based delivery in which the collected data serves as a foundation for how a provider is measured and rewarded based on the health of the patient. The model is focused on helping patients manage their chronic diseases and recover from illnesses quickly. For that reason, providers achieve greater efficiency and patients spend less money to achieve better health.

Big Data and AI

With the vast amount of data available, accurate predictions and recommend interventions can be made using artificial intelligence (AI). The outcome generated are always perfectly correct. In light of the aforementioned, AI cannot completely replace doctors because the lack of human sensitivity still requires human expertise to interpret the data and make recommendations. Every patient is still an individual study, so doctors need to determine whether the presumption is true and the given diagnoses are working for that particular patient. Technology is not only about making an impact but the patients’ safety is a top priority in medical practices.

The Future of Healthcare

Big data is slowly transforming the healthcare industry. But this will require researchers and developers to build the infrastructure to handle the extensive amount of available data, and innovate to enhance the systems performance. The changes promise patients, doctors, and healthcare providers immediate solutions to improve the quality of care with high level of accuracy – to move us to the new frontier of better health and well-being for everyone.

Jidapa Sodwatana