With new technologies and advances all around us, sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the jargon, let alone the actual advances. This can be exponentially true when looking at and running a large healthcare organization, due to the fact that so many developments coming forward impact the workings of the healthcare industry. Adding one more element to the mix may just feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back, however, in the case of Big Data, it may be more along the lines of removing many other burdensome items from the camel’s back, rather than adding to it. But, before you sign any dotted line, you must first learn more of the inner workings of what Healthcare Big Data represents so as to be able to use it in the most advantageous ways possible.
Like many basic definitions in recent history, depth of meanings has changed as more is understood and developed. Initially, Big Data was simply described as a large sum of collected information that was typically too large to manipulate or manage with current standards. Obviously with progress made on memory capability and data management, the definition has changed to reflect greater possibilities and opportunities. Now described as information which is so large and complex that commonly available software cannot manage or process and thus produce significant results for the decision-making practices.
“Historically, health care has been delivered by one doctor looking at one patient with only the information the doctor has at that time. But how much better if the doctor had access to information about thousands, or even tens of thousands, of people?” Ben Rooney – WSJ
Most anyone with good common sense running through them would understand that you don’t run down to your local Staples or Office Depot to pick up software for a business as vast and complex as a healthcare organization. You really aren’t able to turn to other industry’s software because medical data is much more intricate and multifaceted comparatively. This doesn’t mean that your organization must compromise or be subject to several different sets of software. You must be able to assess your needs and have a good grasp of overall demands.
With the peta- and now exabytes of data being generated, realizing the necessity for Healthcare Big Data cannot be overstated. As the demand for better and more effective physician care is regulated at the federal level, along with the requirement to lower overall costs related to healthcare, organizations won’t survive without the support of Big Data. Yet many well-established decision makers for healthcare don’t realize the gold mine they are sitting on when it comes to all the information they are collecting and storing. The third aspect to data, moving beyond just collection and storage, is the analytics facet to the equation. What good is all that information if it only sits in stored memory and takes up space?
Part of the real power behind Healthcare Big Data is the fact that your stored information turns into data-driven results and thus data- or fact-driven decisions. One of the drawbacks to understand about it, though, is the fact that it is a newer way of managing all the information coming in. Healthcare Big Data is a more efficient and cheaper way to store patient’s information, but at the loss of absolute organization within the system. Image, if you will, walking into a file room where all the data is being housed. In the past, all these recordings were structured in filing cabinets that were well-defined, tied to one another as they related to each other (patient’s name, address, insurance and medical documentation). Healthcare Big Data turns that concept on its head and doesn’t file everything in orderly cabinets. In a way, you could compare this more to that stereotypical college professor that has everything stacked in various piles all over his office. There may not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the stacks, but if you ever tried to straighten the chaos, you’d be met with declarations of, “I know exactly where everything is!” or, “Don’t mess up my filing system!” Big Data systems don’t require all the expensive filing cabinets and does truly organize the information in its own special way.
There are both advantages and disadvantage to doing it this way. Healthcare Big Data is a more inexpensive way of storing and retrieving information as compared to a relational database. Especially considering the fact that traditional databases are much more suited to straightforward, unvaried data, which doesn’t apply very well to the unstructured data generate from different sources such as:
- physicians notes and records
- patient health records
- x-rays or other imaging sources
- audio or video files
On the flip side of the coin, Big Data doesn’t have a clearly defined roadmap from which queries can easily be called up. This doesn’t signify the end of your journey. A more technical, sophisticated user is required to navigate the “old professor’s” office. And, almost on cue, other software has been developed and is being refined to enable to a more traditional look and feel to accessing and analyzing Big Data the way that relational databases are currently set up.
Healthcare Big Data is not for the faint of heart, but neither is running a large healthcare organization in this day and age. Just as new skills, expertise and technology are vastly improving what kind of care and outcomes are possible, management of data has also advanced. With the mandates generated from the Affordable Care Act, the absolute necessity to have data- and fact-driven decisions powering the choices made within your organization is essential at every level. Take the time to learn even more about Healthcare Big Data both for healthcare and also for other industries to understand the benefits that may be found.