Big data refers to massive bits or sets of data – both structured and unstructured. Analyzed computationally, it intends to reveal trends, patterns, and associations – especially in human behavior. It also has one or more of the following characteristics: volume, variety, velocity, or veracity.
Big data has made an immense impact in the world of business. Now, it is doing the same in the world of medicine.
Healthcare provider decisions are becoming more and more evidence-based. This means that they are relying more on research and clinical data, as opposed to solely on their schooling and expertise. Now more than ever, there is a greater demand for big data. Perhaps the most widespread application of big data in healthcare is electronic health records (EHR). Every patient has his or her own digital record, which includes their medical history, allergies, lab results, etc.
The use of big data is an example of the concept of “disruptive innovation”. Disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network, eventually disrupting an existing market and value network. The concept of disruptive innovation in healthcare is to specifically train staff and to transfer skills to more affordable providers. By expanding the use of data, the healthcare industry is now transforming to provide affordable and conveniently accessible healthcare. One area in particular that is seeing improvements in quality, cost, and outcomes is wound care.
Skin deep in data
In the United States alone, chronic wounds affect more than 6.7 million individuals. An excess of $50 billion is spent on an annual basis on the treatment of such wounds. What’s more, the burden is rapidly growing due to increasing healthcare costs and the sharp rise of diabetes and obesity. By 2023, the global wound care product market is expected to reach $23.2 billion.
Today, no longer do healthcare providers rely on an individual product or technology for wound care. Rather, they rely on a combination of interventions – at the right time, for the right patient and the right type of wound. Looking ahead, big data that can further refine and improve wound care practice through:
- Prediction – using neural network and other analytics tools to organize and interpret data to enable intelligent prediction of outcomes.
- Decision Support – Based on the Prediction model, building an evidence-based algorithm to guide wound care protocols.
- Standardization – utilize validated treatment protocols to consistently deliver evidence-based care
Ultimately, big data can help providing intelligent tools to drive wound care interventions. For instance, healthcare providers do not want to perform procedures that will not work. They want to provide interventions that have the highest likelihood of success. Scoring systems generated through big data can help to guide this decision-making process. In turn, the decisions and outcomes are tracked, further refining and validating the scoring systems to improve outcomes.
Prevention is better than cure
Undeniably, years of gathering voluminous data for clinical use has been costly and time-consuming. With today’s ever-improving technologies, it is becoming easier not only to collect such data, but also to convert it into relevant findings. Findings that can help to provide better care. After all, this is the purpose of big data: To use data-driven findings to predict epidemic outbreaks; To avoid unnecessary ER visits and preventable diseases before it is too late; To assess methods and treatment plans faster; To reduce fraud and enhance security; To improve quality of life in general; To engage more patients in their own care and to empower them with the tools to do so.
Moving forward, big data is making strides in the standardization of wound care practice. It can guide treatment decisions that will maximize life-saving outcomes, all the while reducing healthcare costs. This is good for healthcare providers, as well as healthcare systems. But most of all, it is good for the patients whose wounds can heal quicker and better with proper care.