Big Data in Healthcare’s True Promise: Better Individualized Care

Frank X. Speidel | HIT Consultant | July 15, 2013

Frank X. Speidel, MD shares his insights on how big data in healthcare can be harnessed for better, faster and more individualized patient care.

At a recent HIMSS conference in Washington on big data and analytics, I found myself vividly remembering two young college students, covered in black and blue blotches desperately struggling to live. It was years ago on a beautiful Saturday morning in June, in a college town drawn from a Saturday Evening Post cover and I was the emergency physician on duty at the local emergency department. As the experts at the conference heralded the new era of big data capture and analysis, images of these students were playing back in my mind.

What is big data and how will it impact care at the bedside? I’m not sure the conference gave a definitive answer. As Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of the Harvard Business Review, described in the October 2012 issue, there is a “huge interest in big data, but also a lack of clarity about it.”

The first challenge of big data is freeing yourself to appreciate the vast dimensions of data that is available. It has been estimated that Wal-Mart collects more than 2.5 petabytes (PB) every hour. [...]