Benefits of Big Data in the Healthcare System

Published February 8, 2021 by 3 min read

Big data offers the potential for huge advances in corporate performance, customer service, and economic growth across a host of industries—but big data also delivers different benefits across a host of industries. So what, specifically, does big data mean for the healthcare industry? 

Healthcare certainly generates huge amounts of data: electronic health records (EHRs), clinical data, patient records, billing records, prescription data, medical devices, and more. The volume of data is enormous. 

At the same time, however, the security risks of that data are sky high. 

The issue with big data in healthcare is that almost all that data is subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the privacy and security of personal healthcare information. Businesses handling protected healthcare information (PHI) must comply with HIPAA, or face potentially severe monetary fines and other consequences if they don’t. 

There is no question that big data can improve the healthcare sector. According to an article in the January 2018 journal of NEJM Catalyst, “Using big data analysis to deliver information that is evidence-based will, over time, increase efficiencies and help sharpen our understanding of the best practices associated with any disease, injury, or illness.”

The more difficult question is how to employ big data to improve healthcare, given the thicket of privacy and security compliance obligations imposed by HIPAA (and other statutes and regulations we haven’t even mentioned here). Those big data benefits will ultimately be worth pursuing, but they won’t necessarily be easy. 

Healthcare Big Data Can Lower Costs

First big data can drive better healthcare analytics in real-time, which would give hospitals and other healthcare organizations a better sense of where and how they could cut costs. That would be possible not only for equipment costs, but also staffing and personnel resources—who could be deployed more efficiently, which would help to mitigate expenses. 

Modern healthcare is going to be expensive. Better data analytics, however, can both deliver better healthcare results and make healthcare more affordable. 

Big Data Can Improve Telemedicine

The use of telemedicine has soared since the start of the pandemic. With the real-time benefits of big data, telemedicine can become more accessible to more people (for example, those who are immobile), since doctors and other healthcare providers can access a patient’s healthcare information with a few keystrokes and conduct a consultation over video-conferencing. That means many health conditions can be addressed in the privacy of your home. 

Done properly, telemedicine saves time and money, and makes healthcare services more available to the public. It also limits the risk of transmitting disease when visiting a crowded medical practice. Telehealth has become one of the most significant benefits of big data in healthcare systems. 

Big Data in Healthcare Saves Lives

Because big data can bring more medical information to the fingertips of medical professionals, more quickly and easily, that also means big data can lead to better patient outcomes—the most powerful argument for big data of all. 

For example, medical imaging technology is indispensable to diagnosis and better patient care. Big data can bring those images directly to a doctor’s mobile device, saving time and money on data storage and retrieval. Those images can also be combined with the patient’s medical history and data on probable causes of illness, which all leads to better decision-making and better patient care. 

So it’s fair to say that big data can be extraordinarily beneficial to healthcare, even as it raises many difficult questions. 

Why Are People Wary of Big Data in Healthcare?

People worry that as more and more personal health information is stored and used electronically, that data will be vulnerable to theft or exploitation unless healthcare organizations keep the data properly secured and restricted to certain uses that respect a patient’s privacy.

Compliance with those regulations (HIPAA above all, but other regulations as well) can take time and money to implement. Even full HIPAA compliance, however, can’t guarantee that personal health information will always be safe. The risk of a breach will always exist, so the question is whether the precautions we implement to reduce that risk are worth the benefits that big data would then create. 

What Does This Mean for the Future of Big Data Analytics in Healthcare?

The reality is big data in the healthcare industry is only going to grow; the benefits are too enormous not to use big data in healthcare. The security risks and regulatory compliance obligations, however, are daunting. Healthcare businesses will need to implement a structured program to manage compliance, privacy, and increased security. 

Automation is the wisest course to meet those compliance needs. With ZenGRC, stakeholders, employees, and your compliance team have access to a single source of truth that covers all of your current and future risk areas. The ability to gather documents rapidly and to monitor compliance saves man-hours and reduces the possibility for human error. 

Additionally, ZenGRC’s user-friendly dashboards show you at a glance which risks need mitigation; track workflows; collect and store the documents you’ll need at audit time; and more. 

Worry-free GRC is the way to be! Contact us now for your free consultation and demo of ZenGRC.

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