Predictions for Big Data in Health Care for 2015

Big data has already begun to impact the world around us in enormous ways. Whether we’re talking about cloud computing or cyber-terrorism, access into and out of big data presents limitless possibilities for expanding how IT affects us.

Though the health care industry has been slower than most others to integrate IT into all patient and provider facets, big data presents a paved road to the most progression for health care yet – especially regarding personalized, precision-based health care. There are some very real improvements to modern medicine that can be made possible with the help of big data.

Five Approaching Changes to Healthcare

  1. Smartwear Can Help With Patient Care

Smart gowns and wearable devices can take an acute measurement of how much a patient sweats or excretes, as well as account for various bacteria or viruses within body fluids that may help diagnose or treat the patient. Improved prosthetics will have improved response to the wearer’s movements and comfort, and will also be able to provide reports on regular wear and tear. Smart lab coats can provide cooling or heat to surgeons, thereby reducing stress caused by temperature discomfort. Smart fabrics such as bed sheets can provide in-depth information on a patient’s sleep patterns and habits. All of this adds to up to improved individualized treatment for patients.

  1. Patient Records and Files Will Be Available

Patient files and records are being moved to the cloud or a publicly accessible data host, allowing patients to be able to access their own information – which traditionally was holed up in one of thousands of manila folders in a giant filing cabinet inside the doctor’s office. This could potentially both increase and decrease the influx of patient phone calls and inquiries.

  1. Epidemic Warnings Released Much Sooner

In one of the earliest and less sophisticated instances of big data collection, Dr. Farzad Mostashari of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noticed something about the New York City fire department’s ambulance call records 15 years ago. They were organized according to the nature of the call. Upon a closer look, he realized that the calls revealed patterns, such as a congregate of respiratory calls. Most notably, the data showed in influx of calls pertaining to the flu – in other words, it provided evidence of a flu surge. Information like this would be available long before doctors or researchers are able to conclude the same results.

  1. Privacy May no Longer Be an Obstacle for Research

This doesn’t mean that patient privacy will no longer be protected, whether legally or ethically. It means that proposed computer systems could query patient data without revealing identity, allowing medical researchers to mash up sets of health records to allow cutting-edge public health research advancements. According to Hershey Research, this could mean fewer needless deaths, improved quality of patients’ lives and even reduced costs.

  1. Compensation According to the Patient

Health care systems in 2015 will need their data to not only accurately record physician productivity, but also patient outcome and satisfaction. In 2013, the Medical Group Management Association included patient satisfaction scores as part of its compensation report. What this means is that fees will change from “fee for providing health care service” to “fee for providing satisfactory value and medical service.”

Incentivized medical services based upon positive patient feedback and outcomes will replace the current fee model. This is especially good news for patients who feel their health care provider has a terrible bedside manner and even worse treatment plans.

There will be plenty of other changes to big data that will affect health care in the coming year and those following. Standardized health care data will begin to be seriously implemented in order to control data sharing. Vendors will be concerned with improving data fluidity from practitioner to practitioner for individual patient treatment.

Big data offers the ability to sooner recognize an individual’s health risks; the ability to sooner anticipate and treat illnesses; and the ability to sooner identify health care funding waste. Access to large amounts of data will push health care to some of its most marked improvements yet.

Scott Huntington is a health enthusiast and writer for the Oxford University Press. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

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