Introducing Big Data in Healthcare – Evolution or Revolution?

Most companies now a days are digitizing their ways and means of functioning. It helps keep a better track record of things, makes communication easier, helps in faster research and makes the overall work culture more efficient. Big data provides insights into a lot of aspects which may seem like too much information in the beginning but does prove to be relevant at some point of time or the other in the future. But is healthcare an industry that can benefit from big data? Can data-driven approaches change the way the world of healthcare works and make it evolve? As a matter of fact, yes! The role of big data in healthcare is huge as it helps in building better health profiles and predictive models around individual patients so that they can better diagnose them on intricate levels and find out ways and means to treat a disease.

One of the main things that healthcare industry today lacks is understanding the biology of the disease. We have broad perceptions about how a disease is caused and presumptuous conclusions about how it should be treated. This is where big data comes into the picture and helps aggregate more and more information at deeper levels to understand the root cause of a disease. From DNA, proteins and metabolites to cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and ecosystems, there can be multiple reasons to how a disease first comes into being. These scales of biology can be integrated with big data.

Currently, the involvement of big data in healthcare is at a fairly nascent stage. The more we delve into it, the better will we be able to aggregate data and develop models based on the behaviour of an individual suffering from a particular disease. These models will make it easier to answer questions and can be refined as and when more information is collected or changes in behaviour are witnessed.

One way in which big data can be adopted in healthcare is by the incorporation of wearable devices and mobile apps for patients. These will represent the future of not just the research of diseases but that of medicine as a whole. On an average, an individual spends ten minutes in front of a physician in a year; some don’t even do that. Wearable devices or apps can longitudinally monitor your state on a daily basis and provide you with a much better and more accurate profile in terms of who you are, what your baseline is and how deviation from that baseline may predict you sliding into a state of disease. This, in turn, will help you and your doctor intervene sooner and prevent you from the severity of the disease. There are already glucose monitors with an interface with digital apps, which then connect directly with healthcare providers based on what they’re seeing with your glucose profiles.

While the introduction of such devices is evolution, in a larger picture it will bring about a major revolution in terms of the way things work between doctors and patients. A patient’s data collection will act like a dashboard of themselves where they can see all the information about their health. This means that they will not need to see a physician every time to understand what their body is going through. Simultaneously, when a severe difference, change or abnormality in the body arises, they can visit a doctor and make it easier for the doctor to interpret what is going on since the basic information is already available to him. That will make the procedure of discerning the disease much faster and more efficient.

One of the major problems in making the idea of big data for healthcare a success is the engagement of people. Everyone has grown up in an environment that is completely counter to this kind of a system. If that can be cracked and the required transformation in the mindset of people can be brought about, big data will definitely change the way the world looks at medicine. Appropriate adaptation of means and devices will hopefully make the world a healthier and happier place in the years to come!

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