Big Data Continues Serving Patients in Increasingly More Ways

Big Data Continues Serving Patients in Increasingly More Ways


From marketing to healthcare, across all industries, big data has become the next disruptive technology. The healthcare industry specifically is consistently a late technology adopter, however, it is starting to uncover new ways to optimize and serve patients using big data. These are the top five ways big data is helping improve patient lives.

Big data helps doctors determine the best treatment

Dr. Anil Jain, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, wished he could see and analyze diabetic patient data so he could determine the best treatment plan after he noticed diabetic patients often had the same two or three concurrent medical issues. Jain thought if he had access to aggregated patient data, he and other doctors would be able to create better outcomes for their patients.

This led the Cleveland Clinic to create a program called Explorys, which gave doctors the ability to put in data and then sift through the data to “identify patient risk factors, track outcomes and evaluate treatment success.” IBM purchased Explorys in an effort to improve its cloud offerings using the supercomputer Watson.

IBM’s Watson is also being used as a tool to help oncologists determine the best treatment route for their cancer patients by using big data sets of how treatments did or didn’t work for patients. The hope is that big data will allow doctors to stop trusting only intuition when prescribing treatments and start having access to and relying on what works as shown by the data.

Prevention takes center stage

The better alternative to treating an illness after it happens is prevention. Wearable technology is starting to perform as a preventative tool for individuals and doctors. The Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone and Apple Watch are a few of the wearable options that track health measures in individuals. Even some non-commercial products, like the wearable blood pressure cuff, currently helps doctors monitor patient’s day to day health. The powerful opportunity these devices provide is the massive data sets that will be utilized to identify health trends and do “sophisticated predictive modeling -- a doctor will be able to assess the likely result of whichever treatment he or she is considering prescribing, backed up by the data from other patients with the same condition, genetic factors and lifestyle.”

Apple and IBM now have a partnership where IBM uses Iphone and Apple Watch data to build out its healthcare analytics data platform. But prevention can also take the form of better training and knowledge accessibility for doctors. Doctors and healthcare professionals can now get their BLS recertification online or make sure they are prescribing medications that won’t have adverse effects. For example, Elsevier Health Analytics developed a system using big data designed to alert providers to systemic adverse drug effects earlier and they are hoping the system will save lives.

Doctors are being held accountable for efficacy

It is estimated that 100,000 to 400,000 americans are killed annually due to medical error. In 2012, an estimated $750 billion dollars of the healthcare budget was lost on wasteful care. That’s why both hospital systems and private companies are looking for ways big data can hold doctors accountable for both patient outcomes and spending.

A hospital system in California called MemorialCare creatively used big data not to measure only patients but doctors as well. Their data collection tool tracks different physician benchmarks such as their patients’ complications, readmissions and cost measures. MemorialCare uses color coding to label the doctor’s performance and transparently make comparisons between providers.

Obviously, not all the physicians were comfortable with this change, however the numbers proved the system. The data collection and subsequent accountability led to a shorter average stay for adult inpatients, lowering the cost per patient saving the system $13.8 million dollars in a year as well as reduced readmissions, mortality and complications.

Another way big data is being utilized to rate doctors is giving patients access to doctor grading information. Grand Rounds is a company who uses a database of over 700,000 physicians (96% off all U.S. physicians), insurance-claims data, and biographical information and grades doctors. Individuals can pay for the service, and many large corporations such as Wal-Mart, Comcast, Jamba Juice and others pay for their employees to use the service. They believe that helping employees find a doctor who will give them the correct diagnoses the first time will save money. Big Data has and will continue to benefit patients as the healthcare industry looks for ways to collect and apply the findings.

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