Big Data has the power to transform the healthcare industry as we know it, and already there are signs that it’s happening. Physicians and hospitals are increasingly relying on big data analyses to track patient health information, improve diagnostic and preventative methods, and collaborate with others in the field to gain deeper understandings of the ways our bodies function. The problem with data-driven healthcare, though? It can be pretty hard to keep up.

Every second of every day humans are creating data about how they live and die. An enormous amount of this data—from activity levels to genetic predispositions toward certain diseases—can be used to create a better functioning healthcare system. But collecting it, analyzing it, and using it in the best way possible are all evolving functions. Here are three of the biggest roadblocks facing the big data revolution in healthcare.

1. Getting the right data.
Healthcare providers gather and store a lot of personal data about each of their patients, but clinical data? That’s a little trickier. The problem comes down to scale. Clinical data comes from a variety of sources, not just a single provider. It comes from test results and primary care physicians and specialists and even personal records. Streamlining this data in a way that makes sense across the board for both individuals and our collective society is an enormous task, and one that can increasingly only be managed by highly skilled IT consultancies.

2. Asking the right questions.
A wealth of data is useless if you don’t know what answers it can provide. Healthcare data analyzers need to not only be skilled in collecting data, they have to know how to cull information from it. We may have information on who has suffered a particular injury or illness and how, but how do we use the data to help us understand why?

3. Ethics of data sharing.
The more data the better, but that can’t (and shouldn’t) negate the healthcare industry’s dedication to confidentiality. Moving forward, providers and their patients will need to dictate new rules to govern the sharing of data for the greater good. Anonymity will play a big role in this, but in order to make sure it’s as secure as possible, some sort of dedicated infrastructure will need to be put into place.

We’re just breaking the surface of the enormous, life-changing possibilities of big data in the healthcare industry. Identifying and overcoming these roadblocks won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Sarah Baker

Brian Russel Davis

Brian is a Full Stack Dev/Engineering professional with nearly 17 years of experience developing web media for global brands, and executing outside of the box thinking.