Big Data’s 3 challenges and a look at Big D. in healthcare

I’ve blogged about Big Data before, (see Understanding the deluge that is big data or More on Big Data and a new career opportunity for the info. profession? ), and, by its very nature, it’s quite an over-whelming subject.

It also seems to be quite an important subject for the information world to learn about (to some degree, at least). So here’s a sector focus.

First topic: health care, and a useful overview from Health Data Management: The HIT Approach to Big Data.

It’s well known that the health care sector, both hospital and home-based is a very heavy gatherer and user of data. This article looks at three Big Data areas to watch:

The first is free text. It’s disruptive searching applied: for years, doctors and clinicians have been made to enter structured data, for example by filling in checklists,  with a small free-text box for extra notes. The disruptive bit is to make much more use of this free-text, allowing doctors to enter more unstructured comment. Why? Because they’ve found that this is often where the most interesting snippets lie and, thanks to the development of smart algorithms, it can be searched effectively now.

The second could be described as “only connect” (as E.M. Forster said): validating data by linking it back to various source records. This can reveal whether a therapy really is as effective as it claims to be, it can reveal patterns, themes and why a treatment works for one patient, but not for another.

The third is mining the data from all those devices. This sounds like a terrible generalization, but there’s no point gathering all that data if you can’t then mine and analyze it.

Oh, did I just hit on one of the three most significant challenges for Big Data? What are the others? I hear you cry. Well, I reckon the second has got to be: drawing the right conclusions from that analysis.

These two are common themes that run through all efforts to make Big Data meaningful, whatever the sector.

By the way, the E.M. Forster quote goes on rather beautifully : “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height”.  That’s the third challenge.

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