We are living in a world dominated by data and its usage. Compilation, assessment, analysis and the systematic usage of available data to improve services forms the bedrock of many industries today. Data mining and data analysis, as it is called, hugely support the functioning of a large number of industries. Prominent among them are online sellers and retail outlets which examine and analyse every footfall and use the information to improve their performance and service delivery.
With the onset of big data
analytics, things have not quite been the same in the field of medicine
too. Much like in many other industries, this tool today is being used to revolutionise healthcare, improve delivery, systematise research and achieve better diagnosis.
From aiding medical personnel in research and patient history to helping the patients with immediate diagnosis, through various applications under its ambit, this IT-health sector tie up has been a boon for all stakeholders.
Collecting data and figures from patients and communities, and using analytical tools to make sense of it, find trends in diseases, predict epidemics, highlight racial pre-disposition to diseases and suggest solutions for the same are some areas where big data
is changing the face of healthcare.
Here is how big data
is changing the face of healthcare:
At the industrial front, big data
enabled technology has made life easier for the medical personnel by enabling cost effective methods of testing and diagnosis through online and mobile applications. Its usage is proving to be highly useful in remote patient monitoring which allows medical practitioners keep an assessment tab on their patients without necessarily seeing them every day. Remote monitoring cuts the costs needed for travelling and regular in-clinic visits, saves time and energy both on the part of doctors and patients.
By cutting out on many overhead costs, rent, inventory and labour charges, digitalisation enables medical firms to earn better profits and keep funds for purposes of extensive medical research.
Dr Sanjiv Aggarwal, founder & MD, Diabetacare
It also reduces dependence on personnel for customer service, thereby combating the problem of shortage in medical professionals in clinics and hospitals at a given time. As the lack of skilled talent is one of the rampant problems in Indian healthcare, this is a welcome change.
Focus on prevention
With increasing life expectancy and higher incidence of lifestyle diseases, there is growing consensus among the medical community that the next line of healthcare
management will be dedicated to prevention. Much like vaccines helped human kind fight a number of deadly diseases, preventive lifestyles are now being touted as the line of defence against modern lifestyle induced diseases. And helping make sense of the same is use of data analysis to help people adopt preventive measures.
Digital devices that help you keep a regular check on your calorie consumption, your physical activity levels, and your blood pressure and BMI use data to push people towards healthier lifestyles. This huge collection of data can also be used to predict health-related outcomes in people.
Easing health-related research
and healthcare; Image courtesy: Diabetacare
When we have the tools to collect such wide variety of data and analyse it, it helps researchers hypothesise new findings that are more customised to a particular community, geographical area, race or group of people. For example, if we enable tools to collect the health records of people of a particular city over a period of a few years, data analytics
experts can use this data to find health traits specific to the community, and relate them to environmental factors like air pollution, water degradation, and increased penetration of pesticides in the soil.
Such analysis can lead to better understanding of racial or environmental factors in determining health indicators of populations. Such researchers have been conducted before, but in the absence of big data
tools, they have been limited in numbers and more difficult to conduct. This may still sound futuristic but it is possible in the near future and is already being practiced as part of experimental projects in some parts of the world.
Quick and convenient service
One of the major benefits of this cutting edge technology is the convenience experienced by the potential patient. The ability of data analysers to pick up from available data and provide to the patient what is relevant to them in a matter of a few minutes is remarkable.
People now have the chance to consult for a medical opinion through mobile applications specifically designed to answer their queries as well as connect them to their respective physicians for reminders for tests and check-up. In case of a serious ailment, the reduced time in consulting and understanding of symptoms, due to a virtual presence, is crucial in making a real difference in medical success.
With the help of such applications which are based on data collection and analysis, people can find out different areas of concern about their health, including heart rate, sugar level and even calories intake. It helps in an overall development of self-awareness about one’s own health.
Patient history takes central role in big data.
Digitalisation of patient files makes the system far more reliable and accessible for immediate use. Genetic disorders and other warning signs can be tested with the help of such information. In fact, special health packages can be customised for each patient according to their specific needs. A brilliant example of the widespread big data
application in the Indian market is the diabetes
Thus, the ingenious amalgamation of the two sciences of information technology and medicine
has the potential to invigorate the health of the nation.
Dr Sanjiv Aggarwal is the founder & MD of Diabetacare, a technology backed diabetes management program