Intelligent healthcare with Big Data analytics

Written by Rajiv Bhalla | Rajiv Bhalla | Updated: Sep 2 2014, 05:14am hrs
An ambulance arrives at the home of a man who is thought to be having a heart attack. Response time is critical! The paramedics begin assessing his condition by using a tablet to consult the patients electronic health records (EHR), entering current data including real-time heart rate and oxygen levels. Fast collection and interpretation of sound waves in the ultrasound and quicker delivery of real-time images allow the radiologist back at the hospital to

review and diagnose faster than ever before. As the ambulance transports the patient to the hospital, the EHR is updated in real time as the doctors at the hospital review and prepare to

respond to the emergency.

This is the power of Big Data and analytics in the healthcare Industry!

The Big Data conundrum

Big Data holds the promise to reshape medical practices to deliver more accurate and effective treatments, which can be rapidly developed at lower risks and costs. It can change the whole healthcare value chain, from drug discovery, to personalisation of care for patients, to industrialisation of healthcare provider processes for improved clinical outcomes and increased efficiency, to safer public health management, to more effective and inclusive reimbursement of care.

The potential for Big Data, however, is still generally untapped. Technology developments are progressing rapidly, but in practice only 3% of potentially useful data is tagged and even less is analysed (New Digital Universe Study, 2012 IDC-EMC). And it is not just a matter of semantics and data interoperability, it is more holistically a matter of understanding what set of methodologies, skills, regulatory, and organisational changes are necessary to leverage the benefits of Big Data.

Specifically in healthcare industry, the volume of worldwide healthcare data in 2012 was 500 petabytes, equal to 10 billion four-drawer filing cabinets and is estimated to grow to 25,000 petabytes, equal to 500 billion four-drawer filing cabinets by 2020a 50-fold increase! To add to this, the use of multimedia such as medical images and high-resolution video has significantly impacted the growth of healthcare data volume which is expected to get further compounded by the varied data formats coming into play as technology evolves.

Moreover, the shift from very accurate analysis of relatively small samples of data and clinical and business performance indicators, to high-velocity, on-the-flight, real-time analysis of a "universe" of data is already changing drug discovery and clinical carefor instance the use of real-time streaming data is already used in ICUs (intensive care units) to prevent life threatening episodes.

Ultimately it is the value that will make Big Data a real force of change in healthcare. With the advent of changing financing and care delivery, analytics has taken on new importance. Healthcare organisations are looking at: operational efficiencies, to reduce costs, waste, and fraud through more efficient methods for data integration, management, analysis, and service

delivery.

Analytics key to compound healthcare intelligence

The most practical application of Big Data technology lies in management and services of resident health record datameaning the management of personal full-life-cycle medical/health data which allows the retrieval of information on previous pathogenesis changes and treatment processes and ultimately administer the correct treatment.

However, combining Big Data with analytics (BD&A) can offer analysis of mass health data which can provide a more scientific basis for management decision making and supervision. Patients can benefit from this convergence, because besides being the ultimate producers of healthcare data, they can make more informed decisions about their health, playing

a much more proactive role in their care paths.

When applied in the area of clinical research which was traditionally based on sample survey, BD&A offer promising opportunities in areas like clinical diagnosis, scientific research, public health decision making by governments, and individual health managers.

As for pharmaceutical companies, they can use BD&A to predict disease trends to model future demand and costs and make more appropriate strategic investment decisions. Applications in life science research have shown how these technologies can improve clinical trial design and results analysis, speeding up research times and result accuracy.

From the point of view of the benefit this offers to the larger masses, being able to process data from the national health systems and from other public organisations such as social services and being able to detect disease patterns and health trends, public health authorities will be able to analyse new facets of healthcare demand and discover new correlations and dynamics and consequently be able to plan care services and resources with greater accuracy and timeliness.

Internet of Things (IoT) based solutions

Healthcare decision makers around the world struggle today with tighter budgets, rising costs, worker shortages, an explosion of data, and higher rates of chronic disease as populations age. Technology, business, and regulatory landscapes are also changing, shifting rapidly toward team-based care, personalised medicine, and patient participation in health decisions. As these trends gather momentum, the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) is also enabling intelligent systems to communicate with each other and through the cloud which is inspiring healthcare organisations to pursue innovation across the entire spectrum of care, from imaging and diagnostics to therapeutics and proactive health.

Patient data privacy key to propel adoption

Patient data being gathered and shared during emergency call and treatment are sensitive, and protecting the data is paramount. Technologies used today need to deliver data protection technology security enhancements including hardware-assisted encryption capabilities which in turn should provide faster data encryption and decryption for securing data and helping protect media and assets from loss all without slowing response times or compromising performance.

To this end, they are offering a range of hardware-assisted security technologies, including accelerated encryption, anti-theft, identity protection, malware detection, and remote management of PCs, laptops and devices. This also extends to software solutions including middleware solution for securing and integrating healthcare data. With the trend fast moving towards increased clinical mobility and cloud-based services, IT solution providers are delivering high-performance computing clusters to usher in next-generation genomics for personalised medicine.

IT and specifically analytics has the power to transform healthcare as it has transformed virtually every other industry. Especially in India where it can also help in sharing the best treatment plan in a geography which is ailed by low doctor penetration. Having said that, majority of data in healthcare is in manual form in India. But, that should not stop us from implementing analytics from the available digitised data which is enormous and can help the country in improving delivery and treatment of diseases.

The writer is director, market development, Intel South Asia