8 Challenges of Bigdata in Healthcare


While one of the maximum impact industries for bigdata analytics remains the healthcare industry and its allied fields, there are challenges that need to be addressed. While some of these challenges are common to more than one industry, some are specific to the Healthcare industry. In a previous article, we explained the benefits of big data in four main industries and how consumers must take the final call in sharing their own data. Here we lay down 8 key challenges that the majority of the Healthcare industry must take into account.

1.     Quality of data

Big data can be effective only in the unlikely event of meaningful data, unlikely because there’s just too much of data being collected but no QC done. More data doesn’t mean better data. Since there are no agreed-upon industry standards and definitions, even collecting the right data is a challenge. As a result, data collection is often messy and quality data is rarely available. Right tools and trained front office employees is just a beginning.

2.     Data scientists

The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that there’s going to be a shortage of a total of 100,000 plus resources in the analytics field by 2020 – which would lead to almost half the positions going vacant. This would be a threat, coupled with a shortage of skillsets that analysts possess. Data scientists need to be equipped with more than just technical skills that analysts have, they need to ask better questions and have soft skills that help to communicate, collaborate, lead, create and innovate. There is a talent gap – in fact, in a recent survey by MGI, 60% of the healthcare leaders were unsure if they had the necessary in-house expertise.

“There is a talent gap, and data scientists need to be equipped with more than just technical skills”

3.     Data Compliance and Policies

Digital privacy, security of digital data, liability and intellectual properties are more relevant concerns today than ever before. Outdated policies need a revamp. Personal data, especially health records, is most valuable, but that’s also the data the end user finds to be most sensitive. There will have to be a trade-off between privacy. Another concern is data breaches, of which theft is the key reason. A recent analysis found that only 56% of the people would be willing to share their medical history – the trust is low and a lot of work is still required.

4.     Managing Data

In-house data center equipment and services has become a whopping $122 billion industry globally. Several industries have kept up with this exponential growth. However, hospitals, which have huge potential for a big data evolution, have not kept up with other industries. They need to develop the ability to assess, analyse and manage big data, including the flexibility to add, compute power and storage capacity quickly when needed – for which the data centers need to be transferred to the cloud era.

5.     Regional Variations

There is no ‘one-solution-fits-all’ model. Innovations that may work in one country may not work in another. Planning a global enterprise now includes a world divided by borders, privacy laws, energy shortages, temperature ranges, workforce availability and varying costs for reliable telecommunication service, according to this report.

6.     Change Management

When experienced persons are encouraged to take decisions based on numbers and not experience, there is bound to be resistance. Change management is in fact an invisible hurdle. The larger the hospital, the bigger the hurdle. The shift to an analytics based culture is imperative, and it takes time. Not only must the decision makers be made number savvy, but they must also be convinced that this is important and a step forward.

“The shift to an analytics based culture is a step forward in the right direction.”

7.     Availability and disaster recovery

An important role for healthcare IT institutes is to always maintain high availability of service and access to data, even if the data center is destroyed by some natural event, say a fire in the hospital. Moving all or parts of a data center to the cloud, across various locations, can help – keeping in mind that healthcare IT departments can work through the above list of challenges.

Enterprise apps

8.     Enterprise apps

Popular enterprise applications, such as ERPs (enterprise resource planning) or CRMs (customer relationship management) packages, have been driven by on-premise installations but the emergence of the cloud era is driving the need for what some call “hybrid ERP.” The future environment would be a more flexible array of tools that combines on-premises applications with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) custom-built applications in the cloud.

Big Data has so much potential, so long as the key challenges are tackled, and this would mean a total leap for the healthcare industry.

Author : Shruti Shah Date : 07 Aug 2015