Big data, as a form of computer science, was first proposed in the 1990s. The concept was simple: collect as much data as humanly possible and then figure out ways to crunch and analyze it for some future benefit. Over the last 30 years, data scientists have been working to perfect the big data concept for practical applications. They have finally reached the point at which big data can start driving Western medicine.
In healthcare, data has historically been stored in analog forms. But the combination of electronic health records and digital data produced by medical research is changing that. Analog data storage is quickly becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, big data is figuring out new and better ways to utilize all the digital data now being produced.
Needless to say, healthcare produces a ton of digital data. Companies like iMedical Data make use of sophisticated datasets to help healthcare recruiters and marketers do what they do. Meanwhile, researchers are constantly analyzing data to learn new things about treatments, healthcare trends, etc.
Where It’s All Headed
Big data in Western medicine has a number of practical applications. In an administrative sense, big data streamlines everything from medical billing to hospital administration. But the most important application of big data in Western medicine is in healthcare delivery itself. And the future of healthcare delivery rests on predictive analysis.
Predictive analysis is the science of using healthcare data to try to predict healthcare trends among certain demographics. For example, researchers might be able to use data to predict the likelihood of certain people developing hypertension. With predictive analysis, it is easier to help people avoid illnesses and diseases that could otherwise prove quite harmful.
Imagine predictive analysis being utilized to reduce cancer rates by identifying risk factors that can be dealt with well in advance of a diagnosis. Rather than focusing so much on finding a cure for cancer – that is still important, by the way – we could put more time and energy into preventing cancer altogether.
More Than Just Data
Big data has come a long way in 30 years. These days, it is being combined with deep learning and artificial intelligence to do pretty amazing things. That’s important to Western medicine. If medicine is to utilize big data to create a brighter future for patients, its applications need to go beyond just the data itself.
For example, making predictive analysis a reality will require both deep learning and artificial intelligence. Deep learning capabilities give data systems the ability to compare data and draw conclusions. Artificial intelligence takes those conclusions and applies them to certain situations.
Combining the two is what will make predictive analysis a valuable tool for preventing all sorts of sicknesses, diseases, and injuries. The better predictive analysis becomes, the less costly healthcare should be because less money will be wasted on the medical equivalent of guesswork.
It All Means Something
We have all had the experience of filling out medical forms and wondering what on earth all the seemingly mundane information is going to be used for. Next time you find yourself in such a position, remember that it all means something. Every bit of data that goes into the system will eventually be used to help us lead healthier and higher quality lives. At least that is the theory.
Big data is revolutionizing Western medicine in real time. As we collect more data and learn how to analyze it, we are getting closer to a truly data-driven healthcare system that allows us to better predict healthcare trends. This is the key to a healthier tomorrow.