Data is the gold of the 21st century. From business, education, and arts to science, sports, and everywhere in between, data keeps the world moving forward. But there’s arguably no arena in which data is more integral to the fabric of society than in healthcare. The more we understand about the role of data in this regard, the more optimistic we’ll be about the future.
Using Data to Improve Patient Outcomes
Healthcare, like any other business, hinges on results. It’s just that, in this industry, results directly impact the health and well-being of customers – i.e. patients. Compared to other industries, the stakes are considerably higher. So when it comes to the evolution of big data, there’s no industry riper for the picking than healthcare.
Data has dozens of applications in the healthcare field, but the most exciting trends have to do with patient outcomes. Most notably, data is being used in the following ways:
- Process Improvement
Healthcare requires a healthy mixture of both subjectivity and objectivity. However, in order for doctors and other healthcare professionals to be freed up to make educated and informed decisions, there have to be proper processes in place.
Walk into any hospital around the country and you’ll find yourself surrounded by processes. From scheduling and staffing to purchase decisions and clinical procedures, there’s a defined process for everything. Unfortunately, many of these processes are archaic, slow, and disconnected from reality. They’re cumbersome and clunky – which is not a great mix in an environment where seconds often mean the difference between life and death.
Leading hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on the use of large amounts of data to improve the effectiveness of critical processes. From pre-surgery instructions to post-op care, numbers can be crunched, analyzed, compared, and extrapolated with surprising speed and efficiency. As a result, fewer resources are wasted, more time is saved, and a greater number of patients gain access to the care they need and deserve.
- Earlier Identification of At-Risk Patients
Did you know that 70 percent of all physician decisions are based on laboratory test results provided by medical laboratory scientists? In other words, the vast majority of treatment plans, prescriptions, and surgical recommendations are determined by the accuracy and viability of lab tests.
It’s also true that early identification of illnesses and diseases – such as cancer – is directly correlated to more positive patient outcomes. The sooner something is spotted, the more time there is to remedy the underlying issue (rather than simply treat the symptoms).
If both of these things are true, then it stands to reason that faster and more accurate laboratory testing could lead to earlier identification of at-risk patients, thereby improving patient outcomes.
In certain hospitals around the country, healthcare teams are using data-rich disease registries to help them identify issues as early as possible. These systems are comprised of biometric information, claims data, and even pharmacy information. Based on factors like unfilled prescriptions, frequency of appointments, biometric risk factors, and other data points, healthcare professionals can make predictive assessments that generate superior results.
- Improved Efficiency
One of the more powerful uses of big data in the healthcare industry is to enhance efficiency. In sensitive settings like hospitals, clinics, and medical laboratories, small improvements can generate significant results.
Improved efficiency looks different in every healthcare setting, but it’s most beneficial when it reallocates a doctor or practitioner’s time so that it can be spent with the most critical patients. This usually results in greater patient safety and more positive outcomes.
- Better Real-Time Decision Making
Data has always played a role in healthcare decision making, but for the first time ever it’s allowing nurses, doctors, surgeons, and even hospital administrators to make better decisions in real-time.
Data-supported real-time decision making enables doctors to access, interpret, and act upon data simultaneously – rather than collecting data and waiting hours or days for the results.
Most notably, real-time decision making has a positive impact in operating rooms where surgeons are often forced to make quick judgment calls based on the situational factors they encounter. When data is accessible, these choices become less subjective and more objective. The result is greater confidence, more accurate decisions, and more positive procedural outcomes.
Big Data and a Healthier Tomorrow
It’s difficult to fully wrap the mind around big data, what it is, and the potential it has in 21st century society. But when you drill down and focus on specific applications, it becomes more digestible. This is certainly true in the healthcare space.
Data, in and of itself, doesn’t have the power to do anything. But when you combine it with the wisdom, experience, and skill of talented healthcare professionals, it has the potential to transform patient outcomes for decades to come. And no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you do – that’s something to be excited about!