We Need #BigData – Big-time!

Photo Courtesy of r2hox

Photo Courtesy of r2hox Creative Commons

Society is in the midst of a massive transformation that will directly affect everything from choosing breakfast cereal to forecasting economic outcomes.

If you haven’t heard, it’s called big data. And yes, its big.

Forbes in 2013 paraphrased big data as, “…a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company, that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.”

Zip forward to 2014 and the function of collecting information has commanded not just the attention of most C-suites, but the average ‘Joe’ as well.

One thing is for sure, we are at the start of a universal movement to measure, validate and strategize everything.

And I’m o.k. with that.

What’s wrong with knowing that my age group likes the odd Starbucks, watches predominately news and partially embraces Twitter. Maybe the Twitter thing I don’t agree with; the point is, data is calculating and making decision for us everyday. As long as we are cognitive regarding the important decisions data is helping us with, why not?

Harvard University’s Gary King notes, “There is a movement of quantification rumbling across fields in academia and science, industry and government and nonprofits.” Professor King goes on to extol how data gathering will improve statistical and computational methods and its storage capacity.

“Computers will offer new ways to link datasets and thereby provide a visualization of such data.”

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Truly exciting news as businesses large and small are now given the ability to visualize their forecasting and make the necessary adjustment towards increased bottom-lines and more jobs.

This data revolution is relatively new. In early 2013, 90% of all data generated was from 2011 – 2013. An old statistic by today’s standards but makes us wonder how fast the remaining 10% will come?

As with the Starbucks example, these algorithms first appeared in marketing to help develop consumer groupings based on trends and habits. Whatever you partake in, your action is observed, captured, sorted and quantified offering marketing clients an exclusive opportunity to not just shill their wares, but understand their habits to spend more.

Within the public sphere, data will assist crime, environment and social sciences in their campaign towards a better life for all. This is tremendous news for all of us knowing a better world awaits. It is only when you look into the eyes of a loved one suffering from a second bout of cancer, you realize the true gift of big data is medical science and discovery.

The ability for big data to improve humanity is the underscore.

iStock Photography

iStock Photography

HBR reports that many major company business models – including healthcare – have not yet embraced digital revolution and look at transition as more evolutionary. That being said, Forbes reports $3.8 Trillion is spent annually on healthcare. Apart from personal coverage, look for private health dollars being a major part of this spend – especially in big-pharma discovery.

This begs the question, how much of that 3.8 has been assigned to big data within public institutions and their agencies? Is it the governments’ responsibility to provide an equitable and fair amount of funding dollars towards big data?

This tax-payer says absolutely.

Big data, must have a permanent place in healthcare operating budgets if the human race is to reach significant milestones in health discoveries with fighting deadly diseases.

Fortunately I am not alone in this thinking. United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is in full data throttle by recently launching their care.data scheme. This big data project captures most GP records and personal information. Various data points will be shared with other health and research institutions to identify trends and patterns in various diseases and maladies.

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing Photo Commons

Not stopping there, the care.data scheme will capture multiple genome profiles that will be stored in a genomic cloud – big data at its height.

In Toronto, Ontario, the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TCLHIN) is heading up one of Canada’s largest data collection projects by not just gathering medical information, but by taking a deeper dive into patient ethnicity and sexuality. The data collected will help healthcare planners look at existing information as phone numbers and addresses, but at the same time identify barriers impeding information collection, as languages and cultural morals. Much the same as NHS’ care.data scheme, this in turn will help improve disease-prevention programs within this health region. Prevention and surveillance of ethnically-diverse patients continue to be a top priority of the provincial health funders as Toronto represents the country’s most diverse and densely populated areas of healthcare provision in Canada.

No longer will educators eulogize the three Rs. Now it’s three Vs!

Both the NHS and TCLHIN fall into the rank and file of frontrunners by understanding and acting upon how big data will advance discovery and general healthcare. Luis Maldonado, Director of Product Management, HP Vertica says, “Big data is defined by the three Vs: volume, variety, and velocity.” The Financial Post defines these properties as: volume representing patient data, variety representing the diversity and uniqueness of the data and velocity being the speed this data arrives back to the enterprise in emails etc.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Fair game, but as both the NHS and TCLHIN are publicly funded health institutions, where allocation of capital budgets and maintaining talent to operate a big data pull, represent two large barriers to overcome.

For anyone working in the public sector, especially healthcare, public coffers are empty. Changing patient records to digital is not only expensive it also brings on the massive issue of confidentiality and its security. Mr. Maldonado goes on to affirm, “… that it’s really secondary in healthcare towards looking after the patient, and is partly responsible for the lag in big data in healthcare…”

Marketing, financial and telcon continue to lead the big data expenditures leaving healthcare often to fend for itself.

So what about big data security with our records?

There is probably no higher concern regarding our personal information than our medical and financial records. Most of us are willing to allocate the sharing and storage of our data to trusted organizations and institutions, but are completely unaware of the enormous costs of not just transferring the data, but its security.

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

The Wall Street Journal predicts world spending on information security will top out at $83.2B by 2016. Enormous money yes, but let’s not forget the mirrored savings the switch to digital will offer down the road in staff hours.

Security aside, society understands the benefits of big data as 70% of enterprise sized businesses and 56% of small and medium sized businesses allocating $100,000 to $100M to its utilization and storage.

We cannot leave healthcare behind in our adoption of data analysis. More business intelligence will benefit all parts of society and is a heck of a lot more important than being told you prefer non-fat lattes.

 

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