Published on

November 24, 2023


Data Analytics: The Future of Healthcare

Explore the future of healthcare with big data analytics. Learn how big data & ML are used to collect high-quality data to reduce medical costs.
Julia Dunlea
VP of Marketing

In recent years, the healthcare industry has been witnessing a remarkable transformation driven by the convergence of two powerful forces in the realm of machine learning: big data and data analytics. 

The healthcare sector is rich with a plethora of raw data and information characterized by their volume, velocity, and variety, such as electronic health records, medical images, genomic data, and real-time patient monitoring data. These massive datasets hold immense potential to transform healthcare, but their sheer size and complexity make it nearly impossible to derive meaningful insights manually or with conventional statistical approaches. 

That’s where the transformative power of machine learning comes in, converging two puissant forces: big data and data analytics.

With the aid of sophisticated data analytics techniques coupled with advancements in machine learning algorithms, the healthcare sector can harness its vast amounts of valuable data to drive insights and improvements in patient care.

In this article, we aim to demystify the concept of big data and delve into the emerging trends in healthcare shaped by data analytics and machine learning models. We will also introduce you to Akkio, a cutting-edge predictive AI platform specifically designed to harness the power of big data analytics in healthcare, offering streamlined solutions to complex issues. 

By leveraging the potential of data analytics, healthcare providers can make informed decisions, enhance patient outcomes, and ultimately pave the way for a revolutionary leap toward a data-driven future. Let’s get started!

Defining big data

Big data, a term that has been gaining traction across various industries, refers to voluminous and complex sets of data that traditional data processing methods struggle to manage and analyze. Its relevance and importance in the healthcare sector are particularly noteworthy, given the industry's inherent need for accurate and timely data interpretation.

Big data in healthcare refers to the massive volume of structured and unstructured data produced from various sources, including electronic health records (EHRs), medical devices, wearables, clinical trials, and even social media platforms. This data encompasses a wealth of information, ranging from patient demographics and medical histories to diagnostic images and real-time health monitoring. 

The 5 V’s: The characteristics of big data

The defining characteristics of big data are often referred to as the five V’s: 

  1. Volume refers to the sheer amount of data, which can range into petabytes and beyond.
  2. Variety speaks to the different types of data, from structured numerical data to unstructured text and images. 
  3. Velocity refers to the speed at which data is generated, collected, and analyzed. 
  4. Veracity concerns the accuracy and reliability of the data.
  5. Value signifies the usefulness and relevance of the data insights to the organization.

The true value of big data lies not only in its sheer volume but also in the sophisticated analytics tools and algorithms that can process and derive meaningful insights from it.

Structured vs unstructured big data

Big data can be broadly categorized into structured and unstructured data, each with its unique characteristics and applications.

Structured data

Structured data refers to information that is organized in a consistent and predefined format, making it easily searchable, retrievable, and analyzable. It is characterized by its highly organized nature, with well-defined fields and a clear data model. In the healthcare context, this could include data like patient demographics, lab results, and medication records. 

This type of big data provides a standardized format that facilitates interoperability among different healthcare systems and enables seamless data exchange, making it easily processable and analyzable by traditional data management tools.

By structuring and organizing patient data, healthcare professionals can extract meaningful insights and patterns that can inform diagnoses, treatment plans, and preventive measures. For example, analyzing structured data from a large cohort of patients with similar conditions can help identify effective treatment protocols and improve patient outcomes.

Unstructured data

Unstructured data does not have a predefined structure and does not fit neatly into traditional databases. It encompasses a vast array of sources such as physician notes, radiology reports, emails, medical literature, time series data from fitness wearables or EKG machines, complex multidimensional data from CAT or MRI scans, social media posts, images, and even audio and video recordings. 

While unstructured data may seem chaotic and overwhelming, it holds immense value for the healthcare industry. It provides a rich tapestry of patient narratives, clinical observations, and research findings that can uncover hidden patterns, enhance diagnostic accuracy, and drive evidence-based decision-making. 

However, harnessing this wealth of information requires sophisticated tools and techniques, like natural language processing (NLP) for text or image recognition for visual data, that can unlock the insights embedded within unstructured data.

For instance, analyzing physician notes can reveal subtle patterns that may not be evident in structured data, such as nuances in patient symptoms or responses to treatment. Similarly, image recognition can help radiologists identify abnormalities in scans more quickly and accurately.

Healthcare organizations can leverage both structured and unstructured data to gain a more comprehensive understanding of patient health and improve care delivery. As they accumulate more data over time, they can learn to extract more value from them. 

Just as doctors learn from reviewing multiple cases, data analytics can also uncover valuable insights from large datasets by combining patient demographics with physician notes to provide a more holistic view of a patient's health status and enable personalized care plans, for example.

How data lakes help store big data

From electronic health records and medical images to research studies and patient-generated data, the volume and variety of information are growing at an unprecedented rate. Managing and harnessing this vast ocean of data is crucial for healthcare organizations to unlock valuable insights, enhance patient care, and drive medical research. 

This is where data lakes come into play.

Data lakes emerged as a powerful solution to the challenges of storing and managing vast amounts of structured and unstructured data. They are a centralized repository designed to store large amounts of data in its raw, original format until it is needed for analysis.

Unlike traditional data storage approaches or data warehouses, which rely on rigid relational databases, data lakes offer a more flexible and scalable architecture, ingesting, storing, and processing data from diverse sources, regardless of its structure or format. 

The difference between a data warehouse and a data lake.

This approach offers several advantages, particularly in the context of healthcare:

  • Scalability: As healthcare organizations generate and collect more data, data lakes can easily expand to accommodate this growth. This scalability is critical in a sector where data volumes are continually increasing due to the proliferation of electronic health records, wearable devices, and other digital health technologies.
  • Flexibility: Since data is stored in its raw form, it can be processed and analyzed in different ways as per the needs of the organization. This flexibility allows healthcare providers to explore diverse data sets, uncover new insights, and adapt to changing requirements or objectives.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Traditional data warehouses can be expensive to set up and maintain, especially when dealing with large volumes of data. In contrast, data lakes leverage commodity hardware and open-source software, which can significantly reduce costs and make big data analytics more accessible to healthcare organizations of all sizes.

Machine learning: The future of big data in healthcare

A simple introduction to how machine learning works.

Machine learning (ML), a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), is poised to revolutionize the future of big data in healthcare. 

The power of machine learning lies in its ability to extract valuable insights and patterns from large and complex healthcare datasets and facilitate improved decision-making, predictive modeling, and personalized patient care.

All the emerging trends and technologies discussed in this article, from data lakes to the analysis of structured and unstructured data, are made possible thanks to machine learning. Its algorithms can sift through vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and make predictions, all at a speed and accuracy that far surpass human capabilities.

To stay ahead of the curve, healthcare organizations must embrace these advancements. By leveraging big data and machine learning, they can gain a deeper understanding of patient health, predict disease outbreaks, optimize treatment plans, and improve patient outcomes. 

The future of healthcare is data-driven, and machine learning is leading the way. As we continue to generate and collect more data, the role of machine learning in healthcare will only become more significant.

How big data is transforming the healthcare industry

Big data analytics is playing a pivotal role in revolutionizing the healthcare sector, improving patient outcomes, enhancing efficiency, and driving innovation in several areas.

Error prevention in diagnosis

Traditionally, medical diagnosis has heavily relied on the expertise and experience of healthcare professionals. However, even the most skilled physicians are prone to errors due to the complexity and variability of human physiology, which can have severe consequences for patients, resulting in delayed or incorrect treatment plans.

Big data analysis offers a complementary approach to ML by integrating vast amounts of patient data from diverse sources to identify patterns and correlations, leading to more accurate and timely diagnoses.

Anomaly detection

Anomaly detection using big data involves the analysis of vast amounts of structured and unstructured data to uncover irregularities that may signify potential health risks or unusual events. 

Traditional methods of detecting anomalies relied on manual inspection or basic statistical techniques, which were time-consuming, subjective, and limited in their ability to handle complex datasets. However, with the advent of big data technologies and advanced analytics algorithms, healthcare providers can now leverage powerful tools to uncover hidden patterns and abnormalities within massive datasets.

This automated detection can help physicians identify issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, leading to earlier intervention and better patient outcomes.

Medical cost reduction

Big data analytics can help healthcare organizations identify inefficiencies and reduce costs through process optimization, waste reduction, and resource allocation. It can also reduce hospital readmissions and improve patient care, leading to significant cost savings. 

This use case is comparable to predictive maintenance models used in industries like automotive to predict when a component will fail.

Assistance in medical studies

Big data analytics proves invaluable in clinical research, drug development, and epidemiological studies. Before the rise of ML, clinical trials have been time-consuming, expensive, and limited to a small number of participants. 

With the aid of big data, researchers can now tap into large datasets to identify potential candidates for clinical trials, select suitable participants based on specific criteria, and monitor the outcomes more efficiently. This streamlined process not only accelerates the pace of research but also enhances the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. 

Moreover, it can be used to help develop predictive indices that identify risks, a practice that physician-scientists have been performing for centuries, such as detecting the effect of BMI on cardiac risk or the link between tobacco and cancer.

Predictive care and precision medicine

Predictive care and precision medicine leverage vast amounts of data generated by electronic health records (EHRs), wearables, genomic sequencing, and other sources to identify patterns, correlations, and trends. By applying advanced analytics techniques to these data sets, healthcare professionals can gain valuable insights for disease detection, personalizing treatment plans, and improving patient outcomes.

While technologies like gene or protein sequencing have not been universally translated to clinical settings, ML approaches like genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics are still beneficial, enabling precision medicine to improve patient outcomes, reduce adverse drug reactions, and optimize treatment plans.

Fitness technologies

The increasing popularity of fitness technologies, such as wearables and mobile apps, contributes to the growing volume of big data. Healthcare organizations can leverage data from these technologies to monitor patients remotely, improve patient engagement, and provide personalized care using big data and data analytics. 

As the volume of healthcare data continues to grow, the importance of effectively managing and analyzing this data will only become more critical.

Challenges of big data in healthcare

While big data holds immense potential for healthcare, implementing big data analytics solutions also presents several challenges, like:

The gap between research and clinical practice

AI in healthcare sounds promising, but there is a considerable distance between what is researched and what is implemented in the clinic. Buzzwords like "personalized medicine" and "genomics/proteomics" have been around for a while, but there is still a long way until they can make their way into routine treatments.

Healthcare data, by nature, is diverse, multi-dimensional, and often unstructured, making it difficult to standardize and consolidate. The algorithms developed in a research setting may not perform with the same level of accuracy in the real world. Variations in patient populations, clinical settings, and data quality can all impact the performance of a big data application, often leading to skepticism from clinicians.

Data privacy and security

Ensuring data privacy and security is a paramount concern when dealing with sensitive patient information. Data breaches can lead to legal penalties, reputational damage, and loss of patient trust. 

Healthcare organizations must implement robust security measures, adhere to regulatory requirements, and ensure data governance to protect patient data.

Data silos and interoperability

A data silo is a repository of fixed data that remains under the control of one department and is isolated from the rest of the organization, preventing other divisions from accessing it. 

In the context of healthcare, these silos could exist within different departments, such as radiology, pathology, or medical records. Additionally, they could also be present across multiple healthcare providers, laboratories, and insurance companies.

Data silos pose significant challenges, with one of the most concerning being the impediment to holistic patient care. These silos can restrict access to complete patient information, making it challenging for healthcare professionals to gain a comprehensive view of a patient’s health status. This fragmentation can further lead to misdiagnosis, redundant testing, or delayed treatment.

Similarly, arises the issue of interoperability, or the capacity of health information systems, software applications, and networks to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged. 

It’s often a challenging feat due to different vendors, healthcare facilities, and even various departments within the same organization using incompatible systems. Furthermore, the lack of standardized formats for health data and regulatory and privacy concerns further complicate the process. 

Budget constraints and resource allocation

Financial challenges, such as budget constraints and the need for skilled personnel, can pose barriers to implementing big data analytics solutions. 

However, the potential return on investment (ROI), including improved patient outcomes, reduced costs, and increased efficiency, can make it a worthwhile endeavor.

One aspect that is often overlooked, but where solutions like Akkio excel, is data visualization. Akkio can automatically summarize and process clinical data to present it in a way that enables fast decisions and analysis for clinicians who don't have the time or expertise to dive into the data. This feature can be a game-changer in making big data analytics more accessible and practical in healthcare settings.

Introducing Akkio for healthcare institutions

Harnessing the power of big data analytics in healthcare is no small feat. Akkio, a predictive AI platform, is here to change that narrative. With its no-code solution, user-friendly interface, and seamless integration capabilities, Akkio is making big data analytics accessible to healthcare professionals, regardless of their coding skills or AI expertise.

Akkio has numerous strengths, including:

  • Analyzing patterns and influential factors from structured and unstructured data: Akkio provides valuable insights for healthcare institutions, enabling them to make informed decisions, optimize treatment plans, and improve patient outcomes. 
  • Live data forecasting: It allows healthcare organizations to make accurate predictions and adjust strategies based on real-time data, ensuring agility and responsiveness in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.
  • Seamless integration with data warehouses and data lakes: This integration, coupled with Akkio's collaboration features, empowers healthcare organizations to overcome data silos and work together towards achieving their goals.
  • Providing rapid insights and effortless forecasts: This is particularly beneficial for healthcare professionals looking to leverage data-driven insights to personalize treatment and improve patient care.
  • Data visualization: Akkio can automatically summarize and process clinical data to present it in a way that enables fast decisions and analysis for clinicians who don't have the time or the expertise to dive into the data. A perfect example of this is Akkio's Chat Explore feature, which provides an intuitive and interactive way to explore data.

See how Akkio can power data analytics in healthcare applications

We’ve discussed Akkio’s features and how they can be used in the world of healthcare. Now, let’s seen them in action! We’ve pre-built a machine learning model and trained it on a heart disease detection dataset.

Try it for yourself by uploading your own dataset, and selecting which fields to predict! 

Transform your healthcare institution with the power of big data and Akkio

The intertwining of data analytics and big data with healthcare promises not only to revolutionize patient care but also the whole landscape of public health management. The advent of machine learning signifies a paradigm shift in healthcare, from reactive to proactive, from one-size-fits-all to personalized, and from individual to population-wide considerations. Predictive analytics for patient care and streamlining operational efficiencies are just the start of the advancements in this area.

However, harnessing this potential requires adopting the right AI tools and solutions – this is where Akkio steps in!

Akkio is a powerful ML platform designed to empower institutions to leverage the prowess of big data analytics. With Akkio, healthcare organizations can unearth valuable insights, improve patient care, and stay ahead in the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape.

This is all made possible via Akkio’s capabilities to analyze patterns and influential factors from structured and unstructured data, make forecasts from live data, integrate with data warehouses and data lakes, provide rapid insights for effortless predictions, and visualize data.

So, why remain on the sidelines when you can lead the revolution? Sign up with Akkio today, and take the first step towards a smarter, more efficient, and patient-centric healthcare system!

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