Transforming health care with Big Data

There’s a lot of hype around Big Data these days, so it’s refreshing to hear a real success story directly from one of the practitioners.  I was lucky a couple of weeks ago to attend a talk given by Charles Boicey, an Enterprise Analytics Architect, at an event sponsored by WANdisco, Hortonworks, and Slalom Consulting.  Charles helped put a Big Data strategy in place at the University of California – Irvine (UCI) Medical Center, and is now working on a similar project at Stony Brook.

If you’ve ever read any of Atul Gawande‘s publications, you’ll know that the U.S. health care system is challenged by a rising cost curve.  Thoughtful researchers are trying to address costs and improve quality of care by reducing error rates, focusing on root causes of recurring problems, and making sure that health care practitioners have the right data at the right time to make good decisions.

Mr. Boicey is in the middle of these transformational projects.  You can read about this work on his Twitter feed and elsewhere, and WANdisco has a case study available.  One thing that caught my attention in his latest talk is the drive to incorporate data from social media and wearable devices to improve medical care.  Mr. Boicey mentioned that sometimes patients will complain on Facebook while they’re still in the hospital – and that’s probably a good thing for the doctors and nurses to know.

And of course, all of the wearable devices that track daily activity and fitness would be a boon to medical providers if they could get a handle on that data easily.  The Wall Street Journal has a good write-up on the opportunities and challenges in this area.

It’s nice to see that Big Data is concrete applications that will truly benefit society.  It’s not just a tool for making the web work better anymore.

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