One of my current projects is at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. I am employed on a project basis to find ways in which big data can be used to optimise different process in psychiatric care. I work with a software engineer and have come to appreciate the importance of a big data analyst in the hospital setting, I have also seen how valuable data can be in making informed leadership decisions, both for the organisation and for individual patients.
So how does big data make a difference? Here are some essential ways big data is transforming health care.
1) Smarter leadership
In a hospital, much like any other organisation, there are different levels of management. Before the big data and digital evolution, only a subset of the organisation had an overview of data, and only a small portion of data was given focus. Having a big data analyst on board makes the entire process from seeking help, to being admitted, to who has treated the patient, what medication was prescribed, how long it took the patient to get a standardized health plan, to triages, just about everything that happens in a hospital, visible and quantified. And further more, it becomes available to all levels of the organisation (even if only viewed by a small number of people). This means that there is a systematic way of gathering data, someone who know how to structure and present the results and a leader that can base their decisions on current updates. It takes a process that perhaps only was done once a month or even quarterly, do being a central part of the organisation on a daily bases, contributing to decisions being made on both individual and organisational level.
2) Safer patients
Having systematic data on a patient's path from symptom to treatment means that any error will be easily traced and easily visible, e..g. if a follow up is overdue or there is irregularities in drug prescriptions. Also, pairing hospital chart data with wearable technology (e.g. Freestyle Libre, or smartwatches) can also create a better flow of data on an individual basis. The common misconecption is that big data means massive and anyonymous data aggregated in to an overview, but it can also mean large quantity of data generated by one person, creating a more holistic picture of that persons health trajectory.
3) Better overview and clearer structured inpatient care
With big data generated from multiple data sources one can create a digital board that generates clear schedules and work processes for a team of caregivers in real-time. And by interacting with the digital board, making notes and adding diagnoses, the care giver is feeding back data to hospital charts, which means the process cuts down the time health care providers need to spend on documentation.
4) Predicting the future
Having big data also means possibilities for predictive modelling, creating insights in to patient flows, staffing needs, and perhaps in the future, utility of machine learning to find patterns in individual patients health patterns.
5) VR data visualisation
Now this is a personal preference and hope. But with big data, come big potentials for VR visualisations. Perhaps not as useful as it is fun for someone who loves numbers and virtual reality.