Big Data And The Acceleration Of New Medical Technologies

Business Analytics is a hot management strategy for companies across a spectrum of industries. Retailers are using analytics to track consumer buying habits and target promotions to boost sales. Kroger, for example, found that analytics tied to the chain’s loyalty card allowed the chain to boost same store sales significantly. Target’s use of big data allowed to company to sense changes in customers’ lives even before their family members did.

Manufacturers are drawing upon big data to make improvements in production and efficiency. Amazon’s use of analytics allowed it to better coordinate shipments between different warehouses.

Analytics can be a game-changing tool. And it promises to aid in new medical technology rollouts.

One traditional challenge with new drugs or technologies has been trying to compare the results of clinic trials to real world settings. Trials and research studies are conducted under very controlled conditions and with a set sample size. The studies can’t take real world variables into consideration, even though they can affect the performance of the item being studied.

However, with new analytics capabilities, there now exists the ability to examine variables in real world settings. Analytics can be used for simple or complex inquiries—determining disease frequency in a population, for example, or verifying the effectiveness of a drug in actual use. With new analytics capabilities, it’s even possible for individual providers to gather complex data sets for review.

So instead of just a clinical study’s parameters, analytics makes it possible to look at individual patients’ lifestyles, medical histories, and other very specific factors. Analytics could also benefit the regulatory agencies in monitoring how new drugs are being used once they are approved and introduced.

And as information from drug databases and the Human Genome project is combined, analytics can be used to find matches for treatments that used to go unnoticed. One data analyst noted that big data techniques are allowing physicians to match a very effective cystic fibrosis drug to patients with the highly specific genetic makeup most likely to benefit from the new treatment.

Analytics also could help orphan diseases (which often lack sufficient research because of small patient populations) by allowing physicians to more easily compare cases around the world.

Another area where analytics will inevitably impact the health care system is in the new industry model of “accountable care” being spearheaded by the Affordable Care Act. Traditionally, hospitals have billed by procedure, so sicker patients generate more revenue. Under the new model, however, incentives are placed on keeping patients healthier, which means treatments will change. And they will likely involve more proactive, anticipatory response.

The kind made possible by big data.

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