Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has identified new-age technologies to fight and bring in some sanity during this time of crisis. And this brings back to limelight the fundamental concepts around new-age technologies, such as Big Data. The power of Big Data to proactively identify meaningful information well in advance, assists in adequate planning as well as pre-empting any potential threat. Further, this also assumes significance in situations, such as those prevailing due to COVID-19 in general, particularly for the healthcare industry.
Digitisation of healthcare data assisting in data analysis
Over the years, the healthcare sector has generated a lot of historical data through regulatory requirements, patient care and records kept in the form of prescriptions, written notes, medical imaging, insurance, pharmacies and other administrative data, which forms as a useful resource of information, which can be further used to derive analytics. Currently, while most of these data in India have been stored in hard copy formats, the recent steps towards ‘digitisation’ of maintaining these records has been fruitful to improve the quality of the overall healthcare delivery system. IoT devices that have been innovated to capture data from Blood Pressure (BP) of every patient, during time intervals of his/her visits to the hospital or a clinic for a health check-up, collates to form information on their health profiles. Such data points collected for various other check-ups combine to form Big Data on a health profile of a patient.
A massive volume of Big Data can be fruitful in assisting decision-makers, medical practitioners and overall medical and healthcare functionaries in disease surveillance & population health management and can prove to be beneficial for clinical decision support systems as this forms a source of information, also known as ‘analytics’.
Platforms to collect information for Big Data
It could be slightly overwhelming, as the data collected from the healthcare sector can be a bit more complex due to its diversity and changing healthcare scenarios, with the volumes and new diseases coming up every time. In this age of digitisation, data can be pulled out from Computerised Provider Order Entry (CPOE) that offers clinical data of patient healthcare and well-being that makes up the Big Data entirely in the healthcare industry. To overcome a health scare or a pandemic in future, the healthcare delivery system can also use data that is available through Electronic Patient Records (EPRs), social media posts, such as on Twitter and Facebook, or even through medical journals and news feeds.
Right and meaningful data can be collected based on preventive initiatives. The right data on disease spread can be collected through various applications and techniques, recently introduced across nations globally, that can prove to be beneficial in fighting this pandemic. Data that can be analysed based on population mobility and the data in reference to people being resilient to the virus can also prove to be beneficial in the future.
Long-term leverage of collected data
Population mobility can be addressed with the use of telecom service providers offering information on the movement of population and effectively notifying them in case of a future epidemic or a pandemic. The data can further be fruitful in confining the disease spread within a specific area or territory. Data on vulnerable communities can also be gathered to curb them from transmitting any viral diseases. This data can further be used to allocate resources in such areas, offer to fund and create a model of preventive measures and improvise infrastructures for healthcare officials to access correct information to offer treatments, issue healthcare guidelines and medicines well on time.
Advantages of Big Data in the healthcare sector
Big Data offers various advantages at the decision-making level in the healthcare sector. Analytical information and data patterns that are available on various pharmaceutical websites, along with the medicines that are being manufactured to cure diseases, can be beneficial in offering patient care at a lower cost in case of an epidemic in future. Big Data on research in healthcare and patient care can offer resourceful information in analysing patterns and trends, thereby offering quality care at lower costs. ‘Big Data on patient care’ is the most informative, as it offers advanced analysis on patient profiles through predictive modelling and segmentation. This enables the decision-makers in the healthcare sector to offer preventive care, identify disease profiles and determine preventive initiatives to offer patient care protocols that can be followed by them to get the best value for their money.
Identifying challenges and offering solutions
The challenges that we face today revolve around data privacy, which needs to be managed with steps that can secure data. A lot of personal data in terms of location, facial analysis and temperature analysis has been taken by various governments using different technologies across the globe to curb the COVID-19 crisis. Thus, a lot of private data is being circulated. To secure this, it is important to introduce data governance mechanisms, where rules must be laid with clear guidelines to access such information and processes must be put in place so that people do not feel insecure about losing their personal data in the creation of a new world.