Big data… this buzzword is used often in reference to healthcare, but what does it mean? To put it simply, big data refers to the consolidation of digitized data that can then be analyzed by different technological platforms. This data comes from sources like EMR/EHRs, medical imaging sequences, wearable devices, and more. In healthcare, this plays a large role in analytics, safety, and moving forward with various population health initiatives across the country.
How is big data different from human health data?
There are some similarities that make differentiating the two a bit muddled, but they are different. Here are the three ways you can tell the difference:
- There is a high volume of data available.
- The data moves at a quick velocity and spans the entire digital universe.
- The information provided has a variable structure and comes from many sources. (Information provided by NEJM Catalyst)
Due to the various forms the data is submitted, how quickly it is compiled, and the amount of which is sent in, it is vastly difficult for big data to be utilized. There is still the promise, however, of a healthcare transformation as software developers and providers dig down into the roots of the information.
Why is big data important in healthcare?
There are many reasons why it is so crucial and relevant to the healthcare industry. These include the following…
The ability to have such a large compilation of data at providers and researcher finger tips enables individuals in the healthcare industry to stop epidemics before they occur. Populations and segments of patient populations can be broken down into smaller groups to address health risks before they get out of hand. On the flip side of this, this also enables them to dive down deeper into the diseases that these individuals have and potentially find cures.
Outside of its ability to influence population health initiatives, this type of data also plays a role in value-based care. With all of the tools that are now available that leverage big data, doctors can now make better informed decisions for their patients. This all leads to better healthcare outcomes for patients.
Avoiding Prescription Errors
This data has enabled some software companies to develop tools that catch prescription errors made by the provider before they ever make it to the pharmacy. This eliminates the potential for patients to receive the wrong medication that could derail their treatment plan.
As the quality of care increases due to big data, the need for hospital stays, and admissions and readmissions decreases. This overall, decreases costs for patients across the board. Big data also aids in preventative medicine efforts. The more information that is available to a provider through big data, the more actively they can work to prevent illness from occurring in a patient which will inevitably drive down costs.
How is your practice using technological tools to advance treatment and efficiencies at your practice? Let us know in the comments!