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Why Big Data is good for our health, literally..

Thursday 27 March 2014

We’ve ALL heard the phrase Big Data being thrown around in the past few years (if you haven’t, I’m assuming you’ve been on a desert island) but it could be argued that Big Data is merely a buzzword that is pushed onto businesses and actually has little relevance to most of the SME’s who make up our economy here in the U.K and around the world.

However, even though Big Data may not play a part in your day to day business activities or decision making processes, much of the gigantic volumes of data collected every day, could actually be benefitting you in other ways.
One thing we all have in common is our health, some people’s health may be poorer than others but the chances are we will all need some form of healthcare at some point in our lives and this treatment can be greatly developed and improved with the use of Big Data.

For example, centuries or even decades ago the ability to predict epidemics of illness would be non-existent and once an outbreak occurred, the monitoring would be in much less depth. Nowadays by using sources as simple as social media in which people are voicing how they’re feeling, (let’s be honest we all love to moan from time to time) analytic solutions are able to provide meaningful insight and predictions to combat and control illness and disease.

A great example of the benefits Social Media data can bring, occurred in New York recently where researchers from Johns Hopkins and George Washington Universities embarked on a project which scanned through hundreds of millions of tweets to attempt to spot patterns and trends of the spread of flu throughout the area.

Researchers used many clever methods to filter tweets from certain locations and even used keyword analysis to track whether the individual was suffering from the flu or merely tweeting about the subject e.g. “worried about catching the flu”. This indication can help with precautions to attempt the reduce the spread of infection as well as handle unexpected demand for A&E Services and estimate drug supply and demand.

Whilst still in the early stages and with many sceptics, this could signal the start of new methods of controlling and preventing infection. In the future we could benefit hugely from healthcare organisations taking control of this type of intelligence and gaining the ability to predict health issues as well as prescribe preventive measures.

So in conclusion, Big Data solutions and strategies may be important for almost every business, but if you’re not in the data mind-set just yet, remember it could be helping you in more ways than you think. .

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