Big Data’s Impact on Health Care

Since the early days of “first, do no harm,” medical professionals have taken every step necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients. As data collection and interpretation plays an ever growing role in the way we deliver care, it seems we’re on the verge of a dramatic transformation of health care as an industry. How might big data impact the way you perform your job?

Big data’s impact on medical professions

As medical science advances, we’ve moved well beyond the era when data sets could be managed and interpreted manually. Accurate studies are no longer done on groups of dozens or hundreds of patients, but on tens or hundreds of thousands.

The implication of this is profound for healthcare professionals. Big data allows researchers to collect, examine, and interpret large data sets with greater speed and accuracy than ever before.

Disease prevention through data collection

One of big data’s strengths is the unprecedented ability that we now have to examine trends that would have otherwise been invisible. With this new knowledge, researchers are able to understand disease processes and risk factors better than ever before. When it’s estimated that at least 40% of deaths are from preventable causes, better management of personal health data could be the most significant medical advancement in memory.

As technology becomes more accessible, even private parties are contributing to data collection. For example, simple fitness trackers, which are readily available and used by millions, have contributed valuable data in cancer studies. In the future, such devices will play a larger role in individual health care.

Improved workflow at the hospital level

Individual facilities also have much to gain from improved data collection. As more and more systems become automated, data is being quietly collected and stored (and, too often, ignored) that could potentially save your facility many thousands of dollars.

Department heads have long struggled with predicting how to allocate resources, and better data management can help you predict trends weeks or months before they develop. Staffing ratios, for example, have often been set on the whim of a manager, a strategy that backfires as often as it is successful. In contrast, data management can help you guarantee the perfect staffing ratios based on current needs at your facility.

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