Undoubtedly, the advent of technology has transformed modern medicine. Not only that it can be argued that innovative medical technologies have had a positive contribution to medical breakthroughs. Although certain diseases cannot be prevented, technology has arguably assisted by improving the chances of survival for once life-threatening diseases. It is remarkable and at time unbelievable to see how technology has advanced, from implantable defibrillators, laparoscopy surgery to 3D printed bionic limbs.
However, using big data healthcare analytics is somewhat underrated, and certainly undervalued. Arguably, if implemented correctly big data and healthcare data analytics can be leveraged to prevent diseases. Moreover, we are continuously gathering data and in healthcare it often in immense volumes. Just think about the real potential that combining big data and machine learning can have on modern medicine. So, in this article, we are going to look at the prospective benefits that big data can have in the healthcare industry.
Why should we re-evaluate the current healthcare system?
Now, there’s no denying that the quality of medicine and treatments have improved substantially in the past ten years. If we were to go back fifty years, the improvements to the healthcare system, life expectancy and treatment is incredible. You wouldn’t think that only fifty years ago in the U.S., the life expectancy for adults was sixty-eight (meaning many adults barely made it to retirement). So, yes there’s no doubt that healthcare has advanced, but is the quality of service better?
Quality vs. Quantity
First, we’re going to look at why we should re-evaluate the current healthcare model (primarily in the U.S.). Therefore, which model should we be using in this potential healthcare system: paying for value or paying for the service/medicine. In an ideal world, it would be great to have an equal balance of both. However, hypothetically speaking, if we were to leverage healthcare analytics it implies that the service would be provided on quality rather than quantity.
Arguably one of the driving forces of utilizing big data in healthcare is so that we can begin to shift from the traditional service (fee-for-service) to a more valuable (fee-for-value) service. The value/quality-based healthcare model has the potential to encourage all healthcare workers to provide a personalized level of care. Now, we are not saying that doctors, nurses, clinicians, etc do not care – we’re saying that at the moment they do not have the capacity to provide tailored, value-based care.
However, if big data was leveraged, then the healthcare system has the prospect of being more value-based. This value-based system is primarily invaluable for an individual with chronic illnesses. For instance, those who have severe, debilitating or chronic illnesses/diseases are more prone to hospital stays. Whereas, if doctors have the capacity to offer more tailored treatment, they can look more closely at their patient’s lifestyle. Moreover, they can identify if any bad habits or poor lifestyle choices are worsening their patients’ condition.
Whereas, if we were to look at the current (tradition) model, which is fee-for-service – meaning that healthcare professionals are paid for every one-time treatment or visit. Now, looking at this model from the outside, one can see how it hinders and limits their motivation to follow up on their patient’s treatment in between appointments and/or treatment. Surprisingly, even though we are continuously collating data, often healthcare providers struggle to access their patients’ record of any prior treatments. Thus, it is clear why many healthcare professionals are demotivated and less incentivized to improve the value of care or chase up “missing” data.
Overall, just by briefly looking comparing the quality of service over quantity demonstrates why we need to adjust the traditional healthcare model. Not only that, if data is easily accessible, realistically it could reduce the number of hospital visits as doctors and clinicians will be able to offer a more personalized treatment plan.
Five Advantages of Implementing Big Data in the Healthcare Industry
So, now we’ve compared the two models. Let’s take a look at the potential benefits that big data can bring to the healthcare industry.
- Encourage Patient Co-operation
Now, for many of us, we’ve already seen this benefit in action. Although for many of us, it’s interesting and fun to track our sleeping patterns, heart rate, and general activities, via our phones or smart watches. Yet, even though this information is enlightening and fun for us, it can actually be invaluable for healthcare professionals. If they were able to access this type of information, they will be able to understand our habits, once we leave the doctors office. Therefore, this type of data will subtly encourage patients to monitor and co-operate with their health provider, as well as giving the doctor a clearer view of a patient’s lifestyle and habits.
- Limit Drug Misuse/Abuse
Often, it can be difficult for a healthcare provider to identify how often a patient has visited different practices to get prescribed drugs, such as opiate based pain relief. Now, if we were to utilize healthcare analytics, this would stop this misuse from happening. Moreover, it can potentially reduce the number of patients with addictions to prescription drugs. Not only that if there was a universal system, which records every visit and is available to all healthcare professionals, then it will help to identify who is perhaps misusing the system.
- Discover New Cures
Undoubtedly, the medical world has been striving to find a cure for life-threatening diseases, like cancer. Now, we feel that leveraging big data, will help us to win this battle. If clinicians, researchers/scientist were able to access the medical records of cancer patients, they would have a clearer picture of how the different treatments affect the diseases (at different stages). Thus, having access to vast data will surely be invaluable to discovering new, potentially fewer debilitating treatments.
- Predictive Analytics
Now, if you keep up to date with the latest technological and digital trends, you may already know that predictive analytics has been one of the largest Business Intelligence (BI) trends for the past three years. Just imagine, if doctors were able to access and understand this data. One could suggest that it will encourage doctors to make “data-driven” decisions, as opposed to subjective decisions.
- Real-Time Notifications
Similar to the first benefit, many people have started wearing devices like Apple Watches to monitor their general health. For instance, a lot of people like to keep track of their daily steps, calorie intake, if they’re on a diet. Now, all this information is big data, and it’s something many of us enjoy using, so why don’t integrate it to become part of the healthcare service? This data could create a world where nurses, carers, and doctors can receive real-time alerts concerning their patient’s health. Moreover, real-time alerts can allow healthcare professionals to be generally more informed. Thus, providing a high-quality, tailored level of care.
Limitations of Healthcare Analytics
Well, we’ve identified that we’ve already got an abundance of data. Also, there is no denying how valuable this information is to healthcare professionals. So, yes, healthcare analytics does have the potential to save lives. However, we need to be realistic when it comes to the limitations of the volume of data, as well as implementing it nationwide (and eventually, globally).
Lack of Specialists
So, the first challenge has to be the fact that as it stands today, we do not have enough specialists who can decipher and organize the data. Also, as the volume of data is growing at an annual rate of 48%, we need to have specialists who actually understand how to leverage this data. The worst thing is not being able to use the right algorithms and have unreliable results, is essentially wasting this information.
Now, if we lived in a world where everyone would be happy to share their data, namely their medical history it would be far easier. However, privacy is arguably the most complex challenge of healthcare analytics. Since many people don’t want to share every detail of their medical history, as well as, many researchers want to keep the data secure. Thus, it will certainly be a challenge to implement healthcare analytics without imposing on patients confidentiality.
The Future of Big Data in Healthcare
Now, we understand that there are more limitations than the two examples above, as well as benefits. Fortunately, due to the advent and rate that technology advancements are being developed, it means that we can find a way to combat these limitations. The future of healthcare is without a doubt exciting, and as more healthcare providers, researchers and scientist begin to leverage big data; patients will have a valuable service. Not only that, big data truly has the keys to unlock the doors of finding the cure to many life-threatening diseases.
We hope that we have been able to convey how data is an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals. Ultimately, big data has the capacity and potential to transform and rejuvenate the traditional fee-for-service model, to a more inclusive, personalized and quality level of care. The bottom line is that data scientists, researches and healthcare professionals need to combine forces to transform healthcare for the better. Please, follow INCOalliance in Social Networks to stay tuned.