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The promise of big data in healthcare--increased efficiencies, better outcomes, more personalized care--is undeniable. How? is the question

doctor data

Hospitals and health insurers are applying big data in three primary and related ways: 

1. Improving care of chronic diseases, 

2. Uncovering the clinical effectiveness of treatments

3. Reducing readmissions. 

These improvements are expected to provide the most benefit for the entire healthcare system in the shortest amount of time. (All three come with a hefty price tag, though, both for the healthcare system and society at large—not to mention the hospitals that don't get them under control.)

Medicare in the US will be measuring (and penalizing) hospitals in 3 areas:

  • The 30-day readmission rate of patients with acute myocardial infarction, heart failure or pneumonia
  • The meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) systems
  • Beginning in 2014, hospital-acquired conditions, which you don't have when you are admitted but contract while you're in the hospital.

It's this combination of cost and outcomes that's the focus of most big data efforts today. Using the 80/20 rule, Big Data initiatives should focus on the 20 percent of patients who end up consuming, in any society, up to 80 percent of the available healthcare resources.

A UK company is using near real-time data from primary care physician's notes, imaging data, demographic data, social welfare data, lab work and other NHS databases to compile nightly and batch processes it to figure out what triggers readmissions.

In the United States' fragmented healthcare delivery system, the next step for providers is to take those walled gardens of data, de-identifying it and combining it into larger pools that are accessible to everyone.

One of the biggest problems in healthcare is the sheer volume of new information being generated on everything from adverse drug events to advances in cancer treatment to genomic research. No doctor can keep up, so IBMs Watson ingested more than 1.5 million de-identified Memorial Sloan-Kettering patent records. Watson also came preloaded with 600,000 pieces of published medical evidence and two million pages of text from more than 40 medical journals.

Stashed in: Big Data, Healthcare

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