Healthcare News & Insights

What is big data, and why should healthcare firms care?

Like companies in many other industries, healthcare organizations have access to much more information coming in at a much faster pace than ever before. And firms that don’t figure out how to use that information may be losing money. 

“Big data” is the term IT vendors have been using to describe that flood of information — and the technology they’re selling to help companies get a handle on it. But what does “big data” really mean?

Big data refers to the vast amounts of unstructured data companies create and collect, often from online interactions. It’s the kind of data that doesn’t fit neatly into rows and columns with clear relationships on which simple queries and reports can be based. Examples include videos, images, transactions, web pages, email, social media content, click-stream data, search indexes, sensor data, etc. – a wide variety of raw, semi-structured and unstructured data that can’t be processed and analyzed using traditional processes and tools, like relational databases.

In health care, organizations have an especially big challenge. Providers are amassing huge amounts of data as they transition to electronic health records (EHRs). And they need to access that data quickly to make decisions that can save lives.

Healthcare organizations are also under pressure to demonstrate quality improvements, and one big way many are doing that is to mine their data stores to look for patterns and other clues that offer ways to improve their care and prevention efforts.

Unfortunately, organizations in every industry are struggling to handle the big data deluge, according to a recent report from Oracle — and healthcare organizations are having an especially hard time.

Most healthcare executives (77% ) gave their organizations a grade of “C” or below for their ability to manage big data. None gave themselves an “A.” That’s worse than average — in total, 60% of the organizations surveyed by Oracle gave themselves a “C” or below, and 8% gave themselves an “A.”

Those struggles are having a big impact on the bottom line, as 93% of executives believe their organizations are losing revenue at an average rate of 14% each year because they can’t adequately process big data.

What can healthcare organizations to turn big data from a challenge into an advantage? One key recommendation from Oracle: Industry-specific tools are essential for organizations to get the most out of their big data strategies.

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