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The concept of “big data” is primarily used, amongst the populace at least, in relation to advertising. People are rightfully concerned about the use of their personal information and details of their behavior being used to sell them products, leading to a relatively robust anti-big-data attitude, which is inflamed by the occasional scare story.
However, big data’s scope spans far beyond basic personal information, and can potentially be revolutionary. In particular, big data has the potential to transform the medical industry for the better – but insiders are raising concerns.
The current use of data in the medical industry
Much of the medical sector already relies on, and is able to utilize, data. Electronic record keeping is fairly standard, with innovations such as the point of care computing cart allowing data to be used in a flexible, genuinely beneficial way by frontline staff. Also, research bodies have begun to focus on the potential for big data in their work, which could result in a faster turnaround time for research projects that would otherwise have taken years.
However, while big data can be – and has been – implemented in a variety of different medical fields, some experts are concerned about the future.
The major concerns for the future of big data in the medical industry
- At present, the knowledge required to truly make use of big data’s potential is thought to be lacking among IT professionals in the healthcare industry. In particular, hospital IT programmers – familiar with more standardized databases – may not be capable of expanding their skill sets to incorporate new, unfamiliar practices. It is thought that highly-qualified specialists, well versed in big data, will need to be attracted to the medical sector in future in order to see dramatic improvements.
- Security is also a major area of concern, even with HIPAA compliance a mandatory requirement in the industry. Of all the data it is possible to collect on an individual, their medical records are arguably most in need of high-level protection, and could result in slow, laborious progress due to an understandable (if sometimes inconvenient) focus on maintaining security at all times.
- Finally, there is the kind of concern that – in a way – is a good problem to have, but is nevertheless a problem: there are so many different ways healthcare can embrace big data, ranging from standard patient record management to tracking health information via wearable devices. While numerous possibilities are generally considered a positive, the sheer diversity of different options could lead to already scant resources being spread too thin, resulting in slower innovation than may otherwise be possible if all were worked towards a single objective.
The potential for the utilization of big data in the medical industry is extremely promising, and is already showing promising results in various fields. However, the issues – including those mentioned above – will need to be addressed sooner rather than later to ensure that arguably the most important sector of them all is able to enjoy the benefits big data can potentially bring.
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