The quantity of data that is currently produced in everyday life and practically in every sector, is enormous and presents an ever increasing tide of change. Speaking of Big Data, the real innovation lies in the ability to manage and use all this important information to increase the efficiency of one’s offered services. In addition, there is a radical change taking place in Health Care thanks to Big Data, pertaining to the steps of diagnosis, disease treatment, and patient management. However, sharing personal data poses the delicate question of privacy, which must always be guaranteed and protected.
What is Big Data
According to experts, Big Data is the huge amount of data (volume) produced, for example, by social media, e-commerce, internet searches, etc., which is generated in a short time, allows answers to be given in real time (speed), and presents different formats and shapes (varieties). For example, Big Data sources can be emails, text documents, images, videos and presentations.
Big Data for Healthcare
In the health sector, increasing attention is being given to the use of Big Data to support clinical decisions. Big Data, in fact, allow doctors to carry out increasingly personalized care pathways, to evaluate their efficiency and reduce the clinical risk, thanks to the innovative process management and control methods. Furthermore, health data, especially those derived from wearables (wearable electronic devices) that trace vital signs, can provide valuable help in prevention or early care.
The problems related to Big Data
Among the numerous problems that the use of Big Data presents, there are, for example, the difficulty of integrating the different data sources (therefore the need for integration technologies and data analysis software) and data management, through a process called “data governance”. Another very important aspect, especially in the health sector where sensitive data is processed, is security. In fact, telematic access to patient data that is useful for providing constant monitoring could compromise privacy if not treated correctly.
As said by Doug Cutting, an expert in open source technologies and former Yahoo! employee,
“Privacy is a contemporary topic and taken seriously; technological proposals must be perceived as safe and international legislation must necessarily align with these new possibilities. There are legal holes that often do not allow us to utilize the data or collect it, data that could save the lives of many patients. It can be used with good or bad intentions, as goes with any technology. It is up to us not to abuse it and share a useful and, certainly, legal approach.”
Technology for health development
Healthcare, like other sectors, can utilize the enormous possibilities of technology to face the challenges that accompany the Big Data revolution.
The use of the Cloud in the healthcare sector has two main advantages: first, to be able to store information and make it user friendly; second, with this data it is possible to make predictions regarding certain pathologies and more efficiently manage new clinical tests with much larger samples size, all with the additional cost advantage.
Experts predict a growing trend in all major hospitals with the use of Big Data and Machine Learning platforms to support diagnostic, therapeutic and care decisions. This will bring huge benefits and play an important role in developing innovative treatments, understanding how to prevent new diseases, and improving everyone’s quality of life.
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