Healthy spending on big data will personalize medical care and improve hospital efficiency

Spending on big data in the healthcare sector can be described as… well, healthy. This, according to a recent report released by Technavio Research.

Its global forecast for big data spending in the healthcare industry is 42 per cent CAGR from this year through 2019, citing cloud computing, social network and big data analytics as key influences on smart mobile technologies which healthcare organizations are leveraging to reduce medical costs and help in more effective remote patient monitoring.

According to the Technavio report, use of big data in healthcare is boosting the scope for personalized healthcare, while medicines and treatments are being customized according to a patient’s health requirements, and patients are updated with a variety of health information and take an active role in healthcare decisions. In particular, the report noted growing use of mobile technology is likely to help analyze vast amounts of data, and therefore help in remote patient monitoring, while the synergy between big data and cloud computing is also boosting budgets for big data in the healthcare industry.

Big data spans a wide variety of data such as patient data in electronic medical records; clinical data; data from sensors monitoring vital signs; and emergency care data for news feeds. It also includes social media data from Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, and data from clinical decision support systems such as medical imaging, pharmacies, labs, prescriptions, and insurance records.

Technavio valued the market for big data in healthcare at $2.48 billion USD in 2014, due in large part to surging data volumes in the healthcare industry and favorable government policies and incentives to adopt electronic medical records, which enhances the quality of patient care and reduces healthcare costs.

Use of big data is not always directly focused on the patient directly. Utsav Arora, IDC Canada’s senior analyst for enterprise applications, said there are different aspects of big data technologies that can be applied in healthcare, including hospitals, which are the biggest potential spenders.

“What hospitals are increasingly starting to do is evaluating and using analytics to improve internal operations and finances,” he says.

Hospitals are analyzing big data to uncover insights that will help them improve overall efficiency, he said, and healthcare is almost on par with other industries, such as finance and retail, which are slightly ahead when it comes to embracing analytics and big data.

In terms of patient care, one area gathering momentum is post-operative care, as patients are being sent home with a smart monitoring device that sends vitals back to the hospital. Arora said Canada is slightly behind the curve than the U.S., but that the next couple of years will see a lot of uptake.

Outside of everyday care of patients in hospitals, big data can have a positive impact on people thanks to cognitive computing, as doctors and medical researchers have access to data that can uncover trends and improve medical procedures. “It’s transforming how doctors are helping patients,” he says.

Last year, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and the University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre partnered to build a pilot IT infrastructure that will provide researchers and clinicians with secure cloud-computing services.

High Performance Computing for Health Sciences, or HPC4Health, is designed to leverage high performance computing to support faster scientific discovery, faster diagnosis for patients and faster identification of therapies for patients, not only in the field of genetics, but also in medical imaging and health informatics. For clinicians, it will provide information that may be used to guide treatment or to match patients with targeted therapy options.


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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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