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How Big Data Impacts the Healthcare Industry

by Kristin Savage, on February 17, 2020

Businesses from all around the world use and analyze big data. They leverage it to improve their decision-making processes and even achieve larger profits. Large volumes of data are stored & collected when customers, online users, and even patients interact with various systems and databases. The way this data is stored and organized greatly effects the level of data analysis that a business can perform later on. 

When it comes to the healthcare sector, big data can be a very useful tool. It may even reduce the number of mistakes made in diagnosis and treatment when utilized properly. 

First off, what exactly is 'big data'?

The term big data refers to a large volume of data which is either organized in a structured format, or in some cases, unstructured. This data is generated in lots of ways from all of the activities happening on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to the healthcare industry, this data could be from new prescriptions, electronic health records, equipment inventories, financial transaction data, and anything else related to the daily operations at a healthcare facility.

What is important to understand here is that the data itself isn’t really that valuable without a plan to analyze it. What matters the most is how that data will be used and analyzed in the future. When used correctly, the data will tell a story about various aspects of the organization and even help identify and resolve major problems that come to light. 

In order to help you get a better understanding of these functions, here are five ways that healthcare can benefit from leveraging big data

1. Prescribing medications with greater accuracy

One of the ways that big data impacts and improves the healthcare industry is by helping medical practitioners eliminate medication errors. Prescribing accurate medications and treatments to hundreds of patients on a daily basis is a tough task and prone to mistakes or miscalculations. 

Making even the smallest mistake can severely impact a healthcare practitioner’s line of work and may even cause problems for the patient. Over time, data can help doctor's make more evidence-based decisions based on existing data. This allows them to provide their patients with more accurate prescriptions and recommendations.

2. Eliminating patient waiting time

Another way that data is beneficial to the healthcare industry is by creating a more organized scheduling system that reduces waiting time in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Hospitals and doctor's offices are able to extrapolate trends from the data to achieve more efficient staffing to meet patient's needs. For example, some quick care facilities may add additional personnel during peak flu season if the data shows a rise in patient visits during certain months. 

Knowing when to expect patients based on admission trends allows the hospital to be better equipped with supplies as well as available practitioners.  In this scenario, they can now provide the patients with quicker and more effective healthcare. Improved care means re-admission of previous patients would be greatly reduced which further contributes to reduced waiting times.

The faster that hospitals provide patients with the car they need, the easier it will be for the healthcare providers in the long run. Increased efficiencies naturally lead to reduced costs within the healthcare system while still providing patients with top-quality service.

3. Decreasing the costs of healthcare

Data analysis can help reduce the cost of healthcare in many different ways. One of the most important ways is through improving the prevention and early detection of diseases. 

“Processes such as genetic testing can help patients treat diseases they can be genetically prone to early on and therefore make the recovery time much quicker and the healthcare costs significantly smaller”, notes Jessica Stone, Financial Expert at Studicus.

Accidental patient deaths may result from care not being provided on a timely or efficient basis. This can cause large financial burden to both the families and the healthcare facilities. 

4. Improving the quality of available services

A great way to implement the usage of big data is through seeing the shortages a hospital has when it comes to staff and resources. For example, if a smaller-scale city hospital has to treat many patients suffering from a certain disease, but doesn’t anticipate the overall demand, it can be a problem for both the patients and the hospitals of nearby cities.

“Using big data to their advantage will allow them to see patient data in a more collective way and understand the shortages and advantages of the hospital a lot clearer. By being able to cater to the needs of certain patient groups, the healthcare facilities will be able to provide people with better treatment options”, advises John Lorens, Content Creator for TrustMyPaper.

To reiterate, this will contribute an improved quality of service made available to the public.

5. Providing increased security of personal data

Securing the personal and medical information of patients is paramount to building trust as well as protecting a patient's privacy and legal rights. Building a data warehouse or data lake to store data for analysis from disparate systems creates a single source of truth that identifies all of the unique places where a single patient may have personal identifying information (PII) stored.

When it comes to most healthcare facilities, the personal data of their patients are being stored in different systems or databases, each with their own unique levels of security. In certain cases, it may be difficult to know where one individual patient's data is stored without the use of a data warehouse. 

Using proper data storage and retrieval methods, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can create a way of storing massive amounts of patient-related information. To avoid any potential security concerns or data breaches, it's important that the centralized data store is architected in such a way that it complies with regulatory standards such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  If built by an outside consultant or vendor, it's important to perform the due diligence necessary with a third-party auditor for their data security protocols.

In summary...

Big data is here to stay. It helps healthcare companies manage their treatment plans, prescriptions, and especially to protect patient's personal information. Managing such large amounts of information easily and being able to determine things such as hospital traffic and admissions will help both patients and healthcare practitioners function better within the healthcare system. 

About the Author: Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin is gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at BestEssayEducation. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.