infoTECH Feature

March 30, 2012

Big Data Enables Healthcare to Process Massive Amounts of Data for Clues into Illness

It’s only just being talked about, but it’s been around for awhile. The name is clean, simple and says it all. Big Data — the ability to crunch the massive amounts of data out there and process and interpret it, according to Ben Rooney of the Wall Street Journal.

TMCnet contributor Nathesh recently reported that a study by research firm IDC has shown that “the Big Data technology and services market is growing at 40 percent a year and by 2015 will reach $16.9 billion” – seven times the overall information technology and communications business growth rate.

Healthcare is one of the places it may play out most.

In the past, wrote Rooney, healthcare was one doctor looking at one patient with only the information the doctor had at that time. But what if a doctor has access to thousands, or even tens of thousands, of people? And all the data that goes with them?

Acquiring medical data has historically not been easy, wrote Rooney, as it is “wrapped in layers of regulations and stringent safeguards and is expensive to collect.” Even more difficult to interpret and use, it hasn’t represented the whole population – just the ones who are sick.  

So while health services can already collect information from laboratories, hospitals and front-line doctors, the problem is that “It is massively skewed. It is highly biased by the people who go to doctors; the ill, the hypochondriacs and the elderly,” Shamus Husheer, CEO of Cambridge Temperature Concepts, told Rooney.

Big data is no stranger to other industries. It’s storage technology is being used to power advanced research across universities and to extract clinical and operational data from iPads and digital pens “for visualization into dashboards and drill-down analyses and in the creation of reports.”  

One of the applications in the healthcare world made by Husheer's company using big data is a sensor that women wishing to conceive wear 24 hours a day “which records movement and changes in body temperature (an indication of ovulation), up to 20,000 readings a day,” valuable information that is obtained only through searching through mounds of data.

Edited by Braden Becker

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