Why is Big Data Important in Healthcare?

By Vignesh Subramanyan | Small Business

In a previous post, I had discussed why big data is becoming mainstream and examined some of the opportunities that big data offers. One of the prominent opportunities available from big data usage is evident in the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations have a large volume of data available to them and a large portion of it is unstructured and clinically relevant. This data can reside in various places such as lab and imaging systems, physician notes, and even CRM systems. But how does one gather all this data and process it? What implications does big data usage provide in healthcare?

More and more healthcare organizations are leveraging big data technology to capture all patient information. The goal of such a technology is to get better insights that can aid diagnosis and treatment for patients. As mentioned in this IBM post, harnessing big data can help achieve three critical objectives in healthcare:

  • Build sustainable healthcare systems: The healthcare industry is constantly faced with competitive and legislative pressure and must determine ways to reduce the cost of care, while efficiently managing resources. Healthcare organizations should focus on understanding the patient and improving patient care by promoting effective resource utilization.
  • Collaborate to improve care and outcomes: Healthcare organizations should improve patient engagement and personalize healthcare initiatives that improve the quality and efficiency of care. Understanding a patient individually is important when designing tailored yet effective healthcare programs.
  • Increase access to healthcare: A major issue with healthcare is access. In order for the population to thrive, healthcare must be available and accessible (and affordable – that could be a topic for another discussion in itself!). Educating consumers on preventive care can improve health and reduce the demand and waste of healthcare resources.

With a growing need for efficient and accessible healthcare, companies and healthcare organizations are starting to invest in applications and analytical tools that help healthcare stakeholders identify value and opportunities. Two great examples of such innovation are SAP (using HANA) and Dell.

SAP is working with Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin to help improve cancer research and results. Charité Berlin is the biggest university hospital in Europe and has adopted the SAP HANA platform for various healthcare functions. One of the functions uses SAP HANA to analyze data from its cancer and medical admin databases to find the most suitable candidates for clinical trials. Since a variety of factors need to be met for a patient to qualify for a clinical trial, SAP HANA provides quick, accurate analysis that accelerates the identification process. In the future, DNA data will be added to the data set and may require SAP’s tool to analyze up to 500,000 data points per patient. Such analysis of structured and unstructured data not only offers Charité with a competitive edge, but also improves patient care in the long run.

SAP HANA also uses distributed computing to complete information processing tasks within a given time-window. In the case of Charité, SAP HANA:

  • Processes tumor data 1,000x faster, which reduces lead times from hours to seconds
  • Reduces report execution to 2-10 seconds

This helps doctors diagnose, structure a remedy and treat patients in a timely manner. Leveraging insights from a large volume of data and personalizing a treatment to suit individual patient needs within a matter of few minutes are key benefits that big data technology offers to the healthcare industry.

You can find more statistics on SAP HANA Technology in the slides below:

Why is Big Data Important in Healthcare? image Dell BigData Infographic1 600x478Why is Big Data Important in Healthcare?

Image Source: FastCompany.com

Dell is another company that places a large emphasis on healthcare. The focus Dell adopts includes application of big data in emerging areas such as genomics and personalized medicine. Dell wants to apply big data to help doctors determine the proper diagnosis and treatment that would best combat a patient’s illness. They have become involved in pediatric cancer and have helped doctor’s identify personalized treatment options by building an application that analyzes a patient’s genetic makeup. In the case of pediatric cancer, which does not have established treatment protocols, tools such as these provide personalized medicine that are vital in treating diseases.

Dell has also worked to provide technology and services to create a cloud-based solution that:

  • Can perform 13 trillion operations per second
  • Reduces treatment times from months to days

The solution’s computing power empowers doctors to provide accelerated treatments to pediatric cancer patients. You can find more information on Dell’s cloud solution here.

Big data holds potential for improvements in various areas of a healthcare organization. It can analyze huge amounts of clinical data at a very rapid speed and gather key insights to aid patient care. The use of business intelligence along with real-time data allows healthcare professionals to make more accurate diagnoses in an efficient and timely manner. The use of big data is expected to grow in the medical field and will continue to pose lucrative opportunities for solutions that can help save lives.

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