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Big Data Takes Big Steps into Healthcare – Part II

In Part 1 , I introduced big data and explained the differences between structured and unstructured data. Today, I will discuss why big data is so important to healthcare and how the industry can squeeze value out of it.

Is Big Data That Important to Healthcare?

Yes. Ahem, let me say that again. YES!!!

Healthcare now represents about 17 percent of GDP—nearly $600 billion more than expected for the United States’ size and wealth.[i] Fortunately, in the new reformed healthcare environment, providers, payers and patients have tangible incentives to work together to lower spending. That requires compiling, exchanging and analyzing information that was previously difficult to access.

DARPA Big data for healthcare (Photo Courtesy: example, the new influx of insured patients is giving population health management a front seat. Big data predictive analytics lets providers stratify a patient population to see where they are in terms of risk and wellness and then track progress. A March 2014 survey reported that 63 percent of federal healthcare executives say big data will help manage population health more efficiently. Sixty percent say it will enhance their ability to deliver preventive care.[ii] And, as we all know, preventing and managing chronic diseases dramatically reduces the cost of healthcare.

Merging unstructured data with structured data also lets medical researchers discover patterns and relationships with legacy repositories and published literature. This eliminates months or years spent searching for associations that big data finds in milliseconds. Healthcare payers are also using big data to identify fraudulent insurance claims, analyze customer satisfaction, personalize insurance plans and predict recurrence of hospital visits.

What’s Next with Big Data?

Industry research firm IDC anticipates a wave of search-based applications that use unstructured information, content analytics, and traditional search capabilities to provide predictive answers to complex problems. And few problems are more complex than those presented by healthcare.

According to a recent IDC study[iii], 54 percent of respondents from companies with 100+ employees were looking for analytical applications that combined their structured and unstructured data. They want these applications to lower the cost of managing and analyzing information, unify access to all information sources and provide decision support and management. Most industry observers anticipate the same market opportunity in healthcare.

From population management to individual patient outcomes, reformed healthcare delivery requires big data analytics. It is time to unlock the secrets hidden in the bits and bytes speeding invisibly around the industry.


[i] “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.” McKinsey & Company. N.p., 1 May 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <>.

[ii] “MeriTalk.” MeriTalk. N.p., 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <>.

[iii] “Unified Access to Information: Less Seeking, More Finding.” Market Research Reports and Industry Analysis. IDC, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <>.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Thea Lavin

Thea Lavin

Senior Account Supervisor at MSLGROUP

Thea Lavin is the Director of the MSLGROUP West Coast Health IT practice. She lives in Portland, Ore., with her partner and twin daughters.

Comments (2)

  • Big Data Queen

    Thea, Big Data is surely a big deal. At LexisNexis Risk Solutions we are actively engaged in using the open source HPCC Systems data intensive compute platform along with the massive LexisNexis Public Data Social Graph to tackle everything from fraud waste and abuse, drug seeking behavior, provider collusion to disease management and community healthcare interventions. We have invested in analytics that help map the social context of events through trusted relationships to create better understanding of the big picture that surrounds each healthcare event, patient, provider, business, assets and more. For an interesting case study visit:


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