How Big Data Can Help Healthcare

Of the many advantages of technology since the arrival of computers is the ease with which data can be analyzed to predict probable challenges as well solutions across various industries. By observing the prevalent trend and drawing comparisons, data analysis has the ability to greatly improve efficiency and decision-making capacity, based on solid statistics and research.

However, when faced with large data sets that include various patterns and trends, traditional analysis procedures often fall inadequate. This is why more and more industries are increasingly moving towards Big Data, especially in the field of healthcare. The Philips Innovation Campus recently presented evidence backing the need for such analysis.

In a country like India, where the population is huge, the resultant pressures are visible in the infrastructure and healthcare system. It is common knowledge that majority of the people in the country do not have health insurance and given the high cost of treatment, families are often forced into financial crisis. While there are several good hospitals and healthcare facilities available in the tier one cities, many of them multinational players, the scenario is quite different in the tier two and rural areas.

Both the affordability and the availability of medical care are within reach for most people in the major metros. In the urban and semi-urban areas though, one finds that private players are usually replaced by nursing homes and district hospitals with a noticeable drop in the number of doctors available. This however, does serve as a possible emerging market for healthcare systems.

Of course in the rural areas, it is the NGOs and the government that are required to be more involved through community and primary health centers. When compared with other countries like U.S., Western Europe, Japan, China, Brazil, Korea, South Africa and Thailand, India lags far behind in terms of beds, physicians and nurses. Not to mention a looming shortage of qualified doctors.

According to surveys conducted, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and so on were the leading cause of death in India in 2008. Despite the rise in CVDs, the country has only about 5000 cardiologists with 300 new doctors added per year, and experts estimate that we also need twice the number of radiologists.

The biggest healthcare challenge facing the country today is not only the acute shortage of doctors and beds but also the affordability of treatment in Tier two and three cities and the rural areas. In such a scenario where there exist various contrasts within the same country, big data analytics can go a long way in improving the quality of treatment across all regions while keeping in mind its cost.

Big data analysis is of immense help when the data is too large and complex, i.e., it is difficult to capture, curate, store, search, share, transfer and analyze. By including descriptive, diagnostic, operational, predictive and prescriptive analytical values, big data analysis can be used fruitfully to mitigate future risks and plan the road ahead. Based on the information, healthcare facilities in India can be addressed better. The management of resources where there is a concerning lack, investment in suitable medical infrastructure and the workflow in hospitals can all be improved to a great degree.

What do you think? How practical and useful will such analysis be? Do you think it will in fact lead to on ground changes?

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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