Big data holds great potential to change the whole healthcare value chain, from drug discovery, to personalization of care for patients, to industrialization of healthcare provider processes for improved clinical outcomes and increased efficiency, to safer public health management, to more effective and inclusive reimbursement of care. The four Vs of big data (volume, variety, velocity, and value)... define the key characteristics of big data as much in healthcare as in other industries, if not more so. The healthcare industry is moving from reporting facts to discovery of insights, toward becoming data-driven healthcare organizations. The aim is to turn data and information into actionable insights to prevent inefficiencies and adapt workflows for improved healthcare outcomes across the end-to-end patient journey.
Looking at the current and future applications of big data in healthcare it is interesting to see how they further enhance and accelerate the convergence between the activities of clinicians, administrators, policy makers, payers, and researchers by saving costs, creating greater efficiencies based on outcome comparison, reducing risks, and improving personalized care. Patients can benefit from this convergence too because, besides being the ultimate "producers" of healthcare data, they can make more informed decisions about their health, playing a much more proactive role in their care paths.
The potential for big data, however, is still generally untapped. Technology developments are progressing rapidly, but in practice only 3 percent of potentially useful data is tagged and even less is analyzed. And it is not "just" a matter of semantics and data interoperability, it is more holistically a matter of understanding what set of methodologies, skills, regulatory, and organizational changes are necessary to leverage the benefits of big data.