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Jun 18 2014   1:53PM GMT

When it comes to healthcare data, is more always better?

Posted by: adelvecchio
Data security, Data storage, Health care analytics, PHI

roberta-katzGuest post by Roberta Katz, director, healthcare solutions, EMC Corporation, @Roberta_Katz, @EMCHealthcare

The online data we produce will grow 40% per year into the next decade, according to IDC’s new report, “The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things.” For healthcare organizations, this data will expand the number of opportunities to include smarter medical devices and innovative sensors to track and manage critical health indicators in real time. Caregivers can employ advanced analytics on the data coming from these devices to help reduce inpatient complications and avoidable readmissions, deliver personalized medicine, identify genetic markers, improve clinical trial safety, and more.

This increase in data places more responsibility on organizations to strengthen their IT department by leveraging the latest technologies and advancements for the security, privacy, and continuous availability of protected health information, (PHI) with a particular focus on patient identification and the reliability of information being collected.

The digital universe — what’s to come

Imagine for a minute the sheer volume of the world’s digital data in 2014, cited in the Digital Universe report — which could fill a stack of iPad Air tablets extending two-thirds of the distance to the moon. By 2020, this stack would extend from the earth to the moon 6.6 times, meaning that the digital universe is doubling every two years. In 2013, the digital universe contained 4.4 trillion gigabytes, and by 2020, that figure will grow to 10 times that number — to 44 trillion gigabytes. For healthcare organizations, the real question is not what to do with this data, but how to make use of it to accelerate clinical effectiveness and time to treatment.

Study highlights:

  • Data growth is largely due to the explosion of the Internet of Things, thanks to wearable technology and machine to machine applications that may help improve clinical workflows and outcomes. The use of health tracking devices for disease prevention and management is an emerging trend. There are new tools that remotely monitor patient physiological measures, aging in place, and smart pills that report proper adherence with medications. Analyst firm IDC estimates that the number of computerized things is approaching a staggering 200 billion, with 7% of all computerized objects wired and communicating on the Internet.
  • To leap ahead, organizations are adopting cloud, IT as a Service, and software defined technologies. These next generation IT models offer new ways to improve caregiver collaboration and interactions with patients.
  • The percentage of “target rich” data is expected to more than double by 2020, compared to the 5% available in 2013, as organizations take advantage of new big data analytics technologies. IDC defines target rich data as data that is accessible, available in real time, and can be properly analyzed and acted upon.
  • For healthcare organizations, this means leveraging automated tools to aggregate, manage, and analyze useful data from across the healthcare ecosystem to gain patient care insights.

Is big data the cure?

A recent MeriTalk study, “The Big Data Cure,” reveals the impact of growing data sets on the healthcare industry and its ability to improve drug trial safety, disease surveillance, prescribed treatments, and overall patient outcomes. Emerging technologies including mHealth and machine to machine will be driving forces behind this change. However, to reap these benefits, healthcare organizations must take the first steps now, so the technology can deliver real returns later.

To ensure preparedness, healthcare organizations should:

Plan: Embrace an enterprise-wide trusted IT approach that integrates security, backup and recovery, and availability solutions for improved efficiency and stronger protection.

Automate: With ever-growing volumes of PHI, security, data protection, and disaster recovery procedures should be automated to meet 24/7 patient care requirements.

Manage compliance: Verify and test trusted IT environments often to ensure compliance with HIPAA and HITECH rules and to meet recovery time objective and recovery point objective goals.

What’s next?

For healthcare organizations, success in this digital universe will depend on taking the right steps today to build an IT infrastructure that can manage and take advantage of the data deluge. As uncovered in The Big Data Cure, 59% of Federal executives working in agencies with a healthcare-related mission say that in five years, fulfilling their agency’s mission objectives will depend on successfully leveraging big data. But, the report also highlights that fewer than one out of five respondents say their agency is very prepared to work with big data today. So, what’s the takeaway? Consider the healthcare data that is coming as well as the target-rich data in hand. Act now to benefit long-term patient care down the road.

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