Big Data Challenges for Healthcare Organizations

Big Data Challenges & Opportunities


What’s been common practice in the financial and retail sector for years is finally making its way into the healthcare system. “Big data” is making waves in healthcare for the way it unlocks vast amounts of information in the healthcare system and assists professionals in analyzing and interpreting it.

As more and more healthcare professionals consider the implications of using these powerful tools, they are simultaneously inspired by the opportunities it provides and confounded by the big data challenges to overcome.


What Is Big Data?

Big data, as an overarching term, simply refers to the large amounts of data in a system that cannot be analyzed through traditional analytical techniques. Thus, something more is required to extract meaningful data from the well of information. Big data in healthcare is a great example of this because there is a lot of information, but not a lot of collaboration between systems of information. Big data seeks to solve this problem.

There are many systems in the healthcare industry such as patient surveys, claims data, medical records, social media and CRM systems that can be used for meaningful analysis. As more and more people live longer lives, big data in healthcare can help healthcare professionals take action to track disease, detect early signs of illness and generally improve a patient’s well-being over the course of their life. This is done by observing past trends and using data to take a proactive stance on health.

Using big data in healthcare can also help hospitals and clinics grow their referrals and physician relationships. Big data can show hospitals where and who competitors are getting physician referrals from. By using organized dashboards and business analytics, healthcare providers can easily identify what needs to be done in order to better staff their centers. Scout is an example of a healthcare business intelligence system that helps providers identify these opportunities.


What It’s Like Without Big Data Today

Many professionals in the healthcare industry are just trying to keep their heads above water as they learn how to utilize the current reporting tools on the market today. This struggle to keep up with what they currently have has left many healthcare professionals unconcerned with using big data in healthcare. However, as medical devices and sensors become more common, big data will take a more prominent role in the healthcare industry.

In today’s healthcare industry, some believe that there isn’t much use for big data because not all the information collected and stored in healthcare information systems is valuable for assisting in patient health. Rather, this information is considered “recreational data.” As larger amounts of data, such as genomic sequencing, become more common, big data will have an ever-increasing place in the healthcare industry.


Big Data Opportunities in Healthcare

As healthcare systems learn to use reporting tools more effectively and more aspects of healthcare become automated, the opportunities of big data in healthcare can be realized. Big data has the potential to play a huge role in preventive healthcare such as curing disease by catching it early, predicting the spread of epidemics by tracking the movement of populations and generally creating a better quality of life for future generations.

Some of the biggest opportunities for using big data in healthcare have to do with marketing, including:

  • Messaging campaigns: There is no one message that applies to everyone. However, big data in healthcare can help medical professionals and marketing teams target specific genders, ages or socio-economic groups to generate relevant messaging campaigns that will have a greater effect.
  • Focused targeting: Along with an increased understanding of which demographic groups to target for marketing campaigns, big data allows for even more specific messaging like micro-targeting. Micro-targeting allows healthcare professionals to get data about diseases, behaviorand lifestyle down to the household level and analyze how they can improve healthcare for individuals.
  • Measure ROI: Big data can provide feedback on the ROI from both physical and online marketing campaigns. This lets healthcare organizations know if the marketing is effective in helping create awareness and encouraging people to take actions to improve their health.
  • Improve physician relationship management: Loyalty, referrals and leakage can all be tracked as we move towards using big data in healthcare. By tracking these aspects, physicians can recognize revenue opportunities they may be missing out on and focus their efforts to achieve greater marketing success.

On its own, there is little use for big data in healthcare. But used in conjunction with analytic methods, healthcare centers can make more effective business, operational and clinical decisions. In addition to these big data opportunities in healthcare, providers should also be prepared for some of the challenges that big data presents to the industry.


Current Big Data Challenges in Healthcare

While using big data in healthcare may sound like a one-size-fits-all solution for analyzing mass amounts of data, there are still many big data challenges to overcome. Here are the two main difficulties:

  • Security challenges: As big data becomes more common; more and more users will have access to private patient information stored in big data systems. Unfortunately, big data hasn’t put much effort into security yet. Much of this is due to the new nature of the industry and that big data is run on open source technology. Some companies like Marketware are beginning to recognize the importance of security for big data. Healthcare organizations should check to make sure they are getting sufficient security from their big data system provider.
  • Expertise challenges: Unfortunately, the skills required to implement and use big data are highly specialized and require a significant effort to learn. This makes individuals with these skills extremely valuable and in-demand. Because of this, most big data is confined to research purposes. On the other hand, big data is slowly becoming more accessible and easier to use, which should allow more people to glean information from these systems in the near future.

Although big data is quickly gaining traction in healthcare, there are certainly big data challenges that must be addressed in order for these systems to succeed.


How Is Big Data Different than Other Systems in Use?

As previously mentioned, the healthcare industry already utilizes many information tracking systems such as CRM systems, physician relationship management, social media and more. Using big data in healthcare varies from many of these systems in three main areas—the type of data, the structure and the cost.

  • Raw data: Big data is often presented using the “Sushi Principle” which holds the belief that the best data is raw and hasn’t been transformed through business rules.
  • Unstructured design: Because big data has not adopted a roadmap or traditional table-and-column structure, there is little guidance on how to navigate the immense quantities of data stored in healthcare databases.
  • Minimal expense: Because it lacks structure, is difficult to navigate compared to other current systems in use, and is based on open source materials, big data is also less expensive than traditional databases.


The Future of Big Data in Healthcare

As using big data in healthcare increases and challenges are overcome, our understanding of the healthcare field overall will expand and allow professionals to take greater action in preventive healthcare. Learn how companies like Marketware can help you read and integrate big data into your practice by requesting a demo today. Or visit our blog to learn more about advancements in data analytics for healthcare services.