Healthcare's Missing a Big (Data) Opportunity

Gienna Shaw, October 11, 2011

Cleveland Clinic's top 10 medical innovations for 2012, released at the annual Medical Innovation Summit last week, included a mix of cool medical devices, new treatment protocols and procedures, and other healthcare technologies that, according to the organization, have significant potential for short-term clinical impact and a high probability of success.

The list includes wearable robotic devices, genetically modified mosquitoes, and medical apps for mobile devices—and one item that's not quite like the others: Harnessing big data to improve healthcare.

"Healthcare data requires advanced technologies to efficiently process it in reasonable time, so organizations can create, collect, search, and share data, while still ensuring privacy," the organization said in a release. "In this way, analytics can be applied to better hospital operations and tracking outcomes for clinical and surgical procedures. It can also be used to benchmark effectiveness-to-cost models."

"Big data"—impossibly large and unwieldy data sets that contain, hidden deep within, a treasure trove of potential for healthcare research and discovery, could have a dramatic impact on efficiency, cost, and quality of healthcare.

A report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that better use of big data in healthcare could generate an additional $300 billion in long-term value, with approximately two-thirds of that coming from a direct reduction in national healthcare expenditures.

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