From the mundane tasks of record keeping and data entry, to more advanced and practical applications like observing and understanding our sleep patterns via smartphone — data shape the way we live and think, just as much as the technology it powers does.
In fact, more data have been created in the past three years than in the history of the human race. However, only 0.5% of all this data is ever analyzed and used. There is vast unrealized potential in big data, especially in industries where positive change is not only possible, but essential.
Nowhere is data more critical to our lives than in medicine. Aside from the everyday keeping and updating of medical records, big data is beginning to address serious access hurdles such as healthcare deserts and out-of-network interactions.
While we’re not quite there yet, we’re on the right track. Here are a few things happening in the world of big data and medicine today:
Understanding physician quality and analysis
Big data gives the healthcare industry major opportunity for impact through assessing physician quality. Quality algorithms are being developed based on a number of criteria including a doctor’s training, publication history, current institution, and patient outcomes. The goal is to provide patients objective data through which to make major decisions regarding their treatment and care. This also ultimately makes health care delivery more efficient by matching patients to the most qualified physicians for their specific needs, right from the beginning.
By way of big data, understanding physician quality will also lead to better control over exorbitant healthcare costs. Currently, employers can expect to pay $1,900-2,250 per employee each year as a result of low-quality care.
On the contrary, employers can expect to save an average of nearly $2,000 per in-person visit and nearly $9,000 per remote second opinion by offering telehealth services fueled by big data algorithms. Imagine if each patient were accurately diagnosed and properly treated with each ailment at the very beginning? The impact of the right physician/patient match is profound.
Removing geographic barriers to quality care
Geography is proving critical to healthcare access — studies have found that 77 percent of rural counties are experiencing shortages of primary health professionals and that these residents are more likely to report fair to poor health.
Data also show that cities like San Francisco have five times more top-quintile (top 20%) orthopedists per capita compared to rural cities like Lawrence, Kansas. And not so surprisingly, regions with better access to top doctors tend to have the best health outcomes.
Aside from simply letting us in on the breadth of these disparities, big data fuel technologies that remove these geographic barriers. The digitization of care delivery through mobile and web applications mean patients have increased access to the most qualified doctors, regardless of where they live.
Providing increased flexibility under insurance plans
Under traditional insurance plans, employees find themselves restricted to in-network physicians that, although qualified, don’t necessarily have the specializations to meet their unique needs. Now, big data is empowering employers to grant employees increased access and flexibility within existing plans by adding telehealth benefits.
Whereas before employees could only rely on in-network physicians, we now have access to video consults and remote expert opinions all via our employer-based insurance. It certainly seems as though employers are taking note: industry experts estimate that by 2018, 80 percent of employers will offer a telehealth benefit to their employees.
The Bottom Line
As technology and society continue to evolve in tandem, big data will reveal imperative insight about physician quality, health care deserts, employer cost savings, medical treatments and more. One thing that will remain constant, however, is the need for quality care. Big data will open up the opportunity for physicians to impact patients anywhere in the world, all from a single interface or digitized platform. In turn, patients will also become better informed of the right doctor and treatment path for their unique needs. That is incredibly powerful. Source