What Is Big Data In Healthcare?
What is Big Data in Healthcare? Big data is a buzz phrase being used increasingly often by medical professionals to describe the arrival of large volumes of data generated by the adoption of new digital technologies that streamline patient records and enable providers to manage hospital care, both effectively and efficiently. The potential for big data and its associated software has been discussed widely by health care professionals and administrators for years but what exactly is it? How does it help the medical profession? And how might big data impact on the way we do business in the medical profession?
The first point to make is that what is big data in healthcare refers to the vast quantities of data generated by a number of stakeholders who need to use it in order to improve patient care. Patient care involves a multitude of discrete activities including record keeping, billing, insurance, financial management, research and evidence-based practice improvement. Each of these activities requires enormous amounts of data and communication links. In essence, all of these activities are linked, and only data can tell us how well we are doing to tackle each of these discrete tasks. It is this need for data which makes big data a challenge for stakeholders, especially those involved in the clinical application of medicine.
Although the topic of what is big data in healthcare may cause some hesitation amongst some practitioners and administrators, it is important to acknowledge that this change represents a major opportunity in the ability to improve healthcare. As we have noted above, stakeholders require vast amounts of data in order to effectively deliver the information necessary to improve patient care. However, as many of the challenges noted above are directly or indirectly associated with the ability to collect, process and manage large volumes of data, using a complex and costly software suite or relying on information gathered by other means is simply not cost-effective or practical. Fortunately, there are several tools now available to help stakeholders manage, analyze and utilize big data within their healthcare organization.
As we previously mentioned, one of the most important areas in which stakeholders must succeed is in the area of clinical decision-making. One of the reasons that patients do not easily give informed consent to physician visits, treatments or tests is due to the fact that they are often not comfortable with the technology governing these matters. According to leading healthcare journals, “many patients feel uncomfortable about giving up their privacy and being monitored during a medical examination. Doctors want to provide their patients with every possible opportunity to decide whether to allow a test or treatment, but they often lack the expertise and training to do so.”
Another emerging tool to help improve clinical decision-making is the implementation of electronic medical data analytics. Electronic medical data analytics (EMD) can provide hospitals and doctors with a large amount of data that can help them make decisions that will better benefit patients. As one of the biggest challenges that hospitals and other healthcare sectors face, according to experts in the field, is “how to collect, organize and interpret large amounts of data quickly, efficiently and reliably.” As healthcare providers implement EMD systems, they will be able to bring to bear not only their clinical and financial data but also their human touch.
Healthcare organizations and providers are making significant strides in the right direction when it comes to EMR integration. According to Mark Kantor, VP of SaaS and Ecommerce at Managed Risk Solutions, “Ten years ago, healthcare organizations were largely inflexible when it came to integrating external data. Ten years ago, large amounts of clinical and EMR data meant large amounts of storage and retrieval time… and big costs.” However, Mr. Kantor went on to state that, “Now, with the right solutions, health data can be accessed in real-time via secure internet connections… and big data from EMR, clinical data and even the hospitalist’s office can be automatically pulled and analyzed without having to go through the red tape of collecting, organizing and managing large amounts of data manually.”
Of course, for those in the healthcare industry wanting to see what is big data in healthcare, there are a number of avenues to explore. The first step is for healthcare providers to understand the benefits that come with the implementation of EMR and other data-driven systems. In addition to gaining insights into what is big data in healthcare, professionals in the industry should also learn how to leverage the insights gleaned in order to create a more robust healthcare system. KPI’s, or key performance indicators, are one way that this can be done. Another way is to make use of healthcare strategic planning in which case, KPIs would again factor into the picture.
According to Kate Vertue, VP of Product Management at consulting firm McKinsey & Company, “asuring and improving patient care are something that should be an integral part of healthcare institutions’ strategy planning. Integrating big data into the strategy mix will help healthcare administrators and other leaders gain a more comprehensive view of the services provided and the impact of those services on patients and health care providers. KPIs can then be used to determine whether improvements are needed or whether the status quo is working. They can also be used to determine what actions need to be taken to refine the system so that it better meets the needs of the stakeholders.” Of course, KPIs alone won’t do the trick if healthcare institutions want to benefit from what is big data in healthcare. As such, healthcare management consulting firms should also be involved in designing quality metrics and analytics alongside the tools.