Mrs D’Souza, a 72-year-old from Goa, suffers from congestive heart failure, a disorder in which the heart does not pump sufficient blood and oxygen. Patients rarely survive beyond five years of developing the disease. She had been advised to frequently visit her hospital, but she doesn’t. Why? Because her doctor is always keeping a tab on her health and is abreast of any pre-condition which might affect her well-being.
Her vital parameters, including blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, are continuously under observation through sensors positioned on her body. The data is communicated through connected smart health devices to her physicians. Actually, the system is so well-interconnected that the day she misses her scheduled medication, the pharmacy and the physician both receive alerts warning them about it.
“After developing the condition, leading a normal life was beyond my imagination. I had to regularly make visits to the hospital and the physician for regular check-ups, which was all very tiring and time-consuming. But with the advent of this new technology, I don’t have to do that anymore. The frequency of my visits to the hospital has decreased hugely, leaving me enough time to live my life normally. All thanks to this innovative technology,” she said.
Mr. Ganesan, a 65-year-old from the city of Chennai, has been continuously on dialysis after both his kidneys failed four years back. He was required to regularly visit his hospital for sessions of dialysis.
Frequently, he had to be moved from one facility to another for treatment. But today, he is treated within the confines of his home. Dialysis is carried out through a portable machine. His vital parameters, including medical history and profile, and the readings of the dialysis devise are gathered through health devices connected to his body. The collected data is stored, analysed and transmitted to his doctors, who—with the help of this technology—can remotely monitor his health status from any location and then take measures appropriately. There has been marked improvement in the quality of his life.
“There has been remarkable enhancement in the quality of my life. I used to be constantly worried about my fluctuating blood sugar and blood pressure—whether they were within safe limits and all. Earlier, I had to be regularly shifted from one facility to another, creating hassle for my family. But things have changed now for the better. I feel at ease. I always have the comforting feeling that someone is keeping a tab. I feel much relaxed,” he said.
Continuous and remote monitoring of a patient’s well-being has become a possibility now with the development of technologies such as Big Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). Using an intricate network of sensors, data gets transmitted to cloud-based platforms to be warehoused, collected and examined. Frequent updates to doctors also reduce chances of unnecessary redundancies or unsuitable treatment, thus improving patient safety. It is especially beneficial in treating diseases that need nonstop watching, including hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.
Prompt decisions in medical emergencies
Quick decisions need to be taken to save a patient’s life in medical emergencies. Big Data together with Analytics helps doctors make better decisions in high-stress situations, by allowing them to conduct high-speed analysis, run through thousands of research articles and genetic sequencing data, peruse numerous treatment records of similar patients throughout the world, giving them deeper understanding of treating patients with specific blood group, DNA sequence or characteristic. On the basis of this analysis doctors then decide about the best course of action. Using modern technological tools such as Analytics, doctors can benchmark patients against previous incidences, investigate how patients with particular gene sequences respond to varying treatments, and make decisions that are based on facts, and not judgment. What was achievable earlier only for a small number of patients (5-10%) can now be implemented for a much larger number—drastically improving chances of survival.
Overall costs of patient care reduced
The use of latest technology has improved home care facilities and can help in bringing down healthcare costs. Global research firm McKinsey projects that the use of Big Data in healthcare can reduce the healthcare data management expenses by $300 billion to $500 billion. According to another survey done by Deskera, as many as 60 percent of healthcare institutions feel that cloud-based Big Data services may reduce costs by approximately 45 percent.
“Analytics can affect healthcare in many different ways. Diseases can be prevented or treated in their early stages. This would also help in preventing unnecessary hospitalisation, visits to the emergency department, and increase in the severity of the ailment. All this translates into reduced costs of care and better health,” said Dhiren Singh, an official from Merlin Medical (a company in the field of healthcare and Analytics).
What is Big Data in Healthcare?
The data includes a patient’s medical information (including a doctor’s prescriptions and notes, imaging results, and data from the laboratory and pharmacy); data in electronic patient records (EPRs); machine generated/sensor data, including that from monitored vital parameters; feed from social media, including Tweets , blogs, and Facebook status updates; also sources that could have less patient-specific information, including emergency care data, news feeds, or publications in medical journals.
Big Data Analytics is fast evolving into a promising field in healthcare and can provide insight into very large data sets and improve outcomes while at the same time it can reduce costs. The ICU patient and his kin need not worry if healthcare providers are around or not. No matter where their location, the patient is continuously under the scanner.