Achieving Innovation in Healthcare With Better Data

Managing data in the healthcare sector is of growing concern. The volume of data is mind-boggling, with around 30% of the world’s data generated within the industry while global data volume doubles every two years. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for organizations working in the sector. It’s essential to find and apply innovative technology solutions.

While healthcare data may be available to health professionals with a few clicks, there is a whole infrastructure capable of combining exponential technologies behind the scenes. It can deliver the right data quickly and efficiently to the right person at the right time by leveraging automation, natural language processing, machine learning, and AI. These infrastructure solutions provide significant opportunities for harnessing the power of data and delivering real-time insights throughout the entire healthcare system, from patient care and drug development to work processes. 

Solving key challenges

The greatest challenge that the healthcare sector faces is transforming existing data ‘swamps’ into data ‘lakes’ and achieving data interoperability to support every level of the healthcare system. Getting this right will improve the overall healthcare experience for everyone, from patients to caregivers.

In the best use cases, data interoperability reduces friction, double handling, and manual work processes for frontline healthcare professionals. For example, aggregating patient health records and moving away from disparate sources makes relevant information readily available to general practitioners or specialists. This can save valuable time, cost, and even patient lives by significantly improving the communications loop across organizations, providers, and specialists, and create better health outcomes for patients. By delivering comprehensive patient information from multiple sources to the same location, healthcare professionals at all levels of patient care can share the same information on the patient’s conditions and treatments.  

Anita Kaye, from Google Cloud Healthcare and Life Sciences, says, “The industry today has the building blocks, the freely available data sets, and an ecosystem that providers can use and adapt to innovate to deliver their solutions. The key is API integration and assembling the data and applications so they work like Lego blocks, which can be assembled and integrated so you can use data flow and do analytics with AI and machine learning.”

This approach is already being used successfully in the industry today. Healthcare companies across the sector are building new data pipelines and collaborating with partners in their ecosystem to share third-party data. In these successful use cases, organizations are commonly using the seamless aggregation of data — often from multiple sources — and placing them into a technological environment that drives actions and insights.

Best practices

In Sydney, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research — specialists in genomics — is processing a data set of approximately 14,000 genomes to help drive the early diagnosis of rare genetic disorders. Garvan is processing what could be the most extensive genome data set in Australia to date and storing the complex data in the cloud. This output is expected to provide more personalized and appropriate treatment for patients based on a deeper understanding of their genetic profiles.

At the same time, Brisbane biotech company Microba is processing large volumes of data to analyze the gut microbiome and consider how it relates to conditions of mental health, metabolic disease, and gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. By utilizing modern data solutions, Microba cut storage costs by 20%, reduced processing costs by 50%, redesigned its workload storage via cloud-native architecture, and reduced sequence run processing time from 48 hours to less than six hours.

These two leading examples demonstrate how innovative solutions for data management, processing, and efficiency are improving outcomes. They also highlight the opportunities and data-driven solutions that could be applied across the healthcare industry. Not only do these opportunities offer exponential improvements in the quality of genomic, operational, and therapeutic insights, but they can transform the consumer experience and make care and treatment more personalized, continuous, and efficient — all while improving work processes for healthcare professionals and caregivers.

Moving forward

As a priority, it’s essential that all systems and applications are capable of securely sending and receiving data, ensuring the protection and confidentiality of the information it contains. 

Once assured, the format and syntax of the data exchange must be defined and then organized while considering data standards and governance. Maintaining a consistent approach permits data to be communicated using a common language and enables information to move seamlessly across both systems and devices, and between organizations, providers, and patients. 

When applied with rigor, these factors enable better codification of the data. This makes it easier to take the data into analytical environments and then distribute it to users in a meaningful way. 

In the end, the ultimate goal is to integrate and align data across the entire healthcare system and distribute information in a way that provides a better overall experience for the industry. With the innovative technology solutions available today, this is not an impossible task. The future of healthcare is about to be transformed in a new and innovative way.

Image credit: iStockphoto/metamorworks