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  • (from soon-to-be-released e-book, by Bernard Mar, Beyond the Big Data Buzz)

    Healthcare Big data in healthcare is transforming the way we identify and treat illnesses, improve quality of life and avoid preventable deaths. With longer lifespans and an increasing world population, the healthcare industry is experiencing rapid change, both in the challenges it faces and the delivery of treatment. Many of the decisions related to these changes are being driven by data. The drive now is to understand as much about a patient as possible, as early in their life as possible – hopefully picking up warning signs of serious illness at an early enough stage that treatment is far more simple (and less expensive) than if it had not been spotted until later.

    Data is positively disrupting almost every aspect of healthcare, from cancer diagnosis and treatment to caring for premature babies. In one specialist premature and sick baby unit, big data techniques have been used to monitor the babies’ heartbeats and breathing patterns. Using this data, the unit was able to develop algorithms that predict infections 24 hours before any physical symptoms occur.

    The computing power of big data analytics already enables us to decode entire DNA strings in minutes, rather than days or weeks, enabling us to better understand and predict disease patterns. Companies like Google, Apple and Samsung are investing billions in developing new biometric sensors and wearable technology that tracks Beyond the Big Data Buzz 7 health and fitness. In fact, wearable health trackers are now mainstream to the point where health insurance providers are encouraging individuals to share the data from these devices in return for rewards. Just imagine how incredible it will be when all the individual data from smart watches and wearable devices can be applied to millions of people and their various diseases.

    Machine learning is already making a dramatic difference in healthcare, helping to improve diagnostics, predict outcomes, and introduce a new level of personalized care. In one example, California-based cognitive computing firm Apixio mines data from medical records, as well as billing and administrative data sets, to help improve healthcare decision making, reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes. What’s more, big data analytics allow healthcare agencies to monitor and predict the development of epidemics, and is currently helping in the fight against the Zika virus.


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