Big Data and Healthcare: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

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The primary reason that Big Data is such an important topic right now is that the business world finally figured out that it could learn valuable information by analyzing all of the data it’s been collecting and storing for years. The healthcare industry is no exception. In fact, the healthcare industry stands to benefit from data analytics technology more than most.

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And of the many roles in the healthcare industry, those who have recently obtained, or are in the process of obtaining their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree are in a position to harness the awesome potential of the Big Data revolution.

As of 2015, 94 percent of hospitals used electronic medical records, the FDA cleared more than 100 mobile health apps for mobile devices, $1.4 billion had been invested in private digital health-sector companies, and the healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) was predicted to create a $30 billion industry by 2025, according to David H. Roman and Kyle D. Conlee’s Goldman Sachs report, “The Digital Revolution Comes To U.S Healthcare.”

Concerning EHRs

Traditionally, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and medical clinics of all sorts kept records in giant, room-sized filing cabinets full of hanging folders. In fact, such filing arrangements are still not uncommon. But many of the larger health organizations have adopted electronic health records (EHRs) to make records more easily accessible, harder to lose, and simpler to share.

EHRs are also capable of storing more information with more detail than was previously possible. All of the EHR-derived data being generated, stored, cross-referenced, and analyzed have yielded insightful results.

“Predictive modeling over data derived from EHRs is being used for early diagnosis and is reducing mortality rates from problems such as congestive heart failure and sepsis,” explains data tech writer Carol McDonald in her article, “5 Big Data Trends In Healthcare For 2017” on “Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) accounts for the most healthcare spending. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better it can be treated, avoiding expensive complications.”

Machine learning algorithms (a type of artificial intelligence) can be programmed to take into consideration many more details in patient records than any one physician could possibly be expected to review. And while a human doctor might miss the subtle early warning signs of many diseases, a computer algorithm will see everything there is to see.

The Ever-Growing Internet Of Things

The IoT is constantly adding new, useful, data-generating devices to the healthcare industry’s repertoire. Wearable devices are already in use for diabetes patients to track blood sugar levels and even to deliver insulin, activity trackers for cancer patients are being used in conjunction with smartphones to track patients’ recoveries, and even vital-sign monitors in healthcare facilities are being redesigned to aggregate, store, and analyze data to flag warning signs in a quicker, more efficient manner.

“IoT is poised to influence nurses’ professional lives,” says nursing educator Dr. Susan Sportsman in her paper, “Nurses Will Benefit From The Internet Of Things” on

“IoT will turbocharge innovation in remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, and behavior modification. It will help to control avoidable costs, surface fresh business opportunities, and enhance the management of chronic conditions.”

In 2017, the Healthcare IoT is positively affecting three areas in particular, according to the IT industry blog post, “How IoT Medical Devices Are Changing Health Care Today.” These areas are:

  • Eldercare – Tracking wandering patients, monitoring activities in nursing homes, and tracking medicine regimens.
  • Patient data gathering – Vital signs, EKG stats, and most medical components designed to collect patient data.
  • Real-time location – RFID, Bluetooth, and WiFi track both people and equipment at a low cost.

As Big Data Expands

As more data is moved onto remote servers and AI steadily improves, the healthcare industry is beginning to understand that medical data will soon be moved into Big Data space. HIPAA and privacy concerns are slowing the process, but cyber security innovation is progressing alongside Big Data and will be fully capable of protecting sensitive medical data.

Leaders in the nursing industry, such as Elsevier Clinical Solutions nursing expert Michelle Troseth, are paving the way for continued adaptation of the medical industry to Big Data.

“When we have data, it is possible to benchmark and improve quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare,” Troseth says in an interview with healthcare tech writer Eden Estopace in “Technology Evolving The Role Of Nurses And The Future Of Patient Care” on “Without data, it is like throwing a dart in the dark – you won’t know exactly where things stand. By creating dashboards, digitizing data, creating standardized big data and linking it with standardized terminology, we are able to look at trends in nursing and make decisions on a nursing practice that we’ve never been able to make before.”

In the future, Big Data development and improvements in data analytics will continue to benefit the healthcare industry in even more areas. lists several predictions in its “Future Data Trends In Pharma And Healthcare” blog post.

Data will soon be able to help with clinical trials by finding suitable test subjects faster and more efficiently, according to the post. The Open Data movement will help AI algorithms identify red flags and potential irregularities in images by comparing and contrasting tens of thousands of high-resolution images. And predictive modeling will give healthcare decision makers solid, data-based evidence on which to base critical decisions.

Doctor of Nursing Practice Program At Duquesne University

Duquesne University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program trains graduates to be ready and able to affect the way healthcare is practiced. Coursework in epidemiology and biostatistics, ethical leadership, transcultural care and global health perspectives, and translating evidence into practice can enable students to become effective managers of nursing personnel from hospital ERs to traveling disaster medical teams. Contact Duquesne University today to learn more about its online DNP degree.