Intelligent healthcare with Big Data analytics

Sep 01 2014, 23:44 IST
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SummaryBig Data holds the promise to reshape medical practices to deliver more accurate and effective treatments at lower risks and costs.

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 patient’s 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 2020—a 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 care—for instance the use of real-time streaming data is already used in ICUs (intensive care

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