Home » What is Big Data in Healthcare? Things You Need to Know

What is Big Data in Healthcare? Things You Need to Know

Veronica May 12, 2023

Big data has improved data analysis and management across industries, including healthcare. Data analytics plays a critical role in healthcare service enhancement, for example, it promotes the use of digital recording with wearable devices. That becomes the question, what is big data in healthcare?

The ever-growing healthcare industry requires a reliable data-driven system to manage, analyze, and also leverage data. This is where big data analytics come into play, providing a huge number of benefits, such as improving life quality in general, reducing treatment costs, etc.

What Is Big Data in Healthcare?


Big data in the healthcare industry refers to a vast volume of information containing data records of the patients collected from various sources, such as medical imaging, wearables, electronic health records, medical devices, and many more. These data sets are too large to handle with traditional technologies.

Data analytics in healthcare allow hospitals to improve their management systems, make better decisions, and create forecasts for enhanced quality of health in general. Using specific data may also help prevent epidemics and treat diseases.

Three main characteristics set big data apart from traditional data, including:

  • Volume: Big data should be available in a massive volume.
  • Velocity: High velocity means big data should be able to move rapidly and spans the digital universe in the healthcare industry.
  • Variety: This means big data in healthcare is obtained from various sources which makes it highly variable.

When it comes to data sources, organizations can benefit from:

  • Patient portals
  • EHRs
  • Search engine
  • Payer records
  • Research studies
  • Generic databases
  • Staffing schedules

As big data is extracted from a wide variety of sources, it has diverse types, formats, and contexts. Though it brings some challenges, it promises significant advantages to transform the healthcare industry.

The Use of Big Data in Healthcare


After answering the question “what is big data in healthcare”, another question may pop in mind your mind. What are the main uses of big data in this industry? Take a look at the following pointers to comprehend the major applications of big data in healthcare.

1. Maintain Patients’ Health

Avoiding illnesses and keeping patients healthy are the top priority in the healthcare industry. Technology-driven products and wearables such as Fitbit activity tracker and Apple Watch help monitor the health stat of individuals and send the collected data to cloud servers.

These servers will provide health-related information to physicians so they can use it to analyze wellness programs. Some products like HealthKit and CareKit also help individuals manage their conditions.

2. Create Patients Prediction

Shift managers know how painful it is to determine how many staff to put in at a given period. While putting too many workers can add up labor costs, scheduling too few workers will put customer service outcomes at risk.

Big data comes to solve the problem. Based on data from various sources, organizations can make predictions on an hourly or daily basis of how many patients are going to visit the facility. Combined with machine learning, researchers can figure out accurate algorithms to predict visitor volumes.

3. Make Informed Strategic Planning

What is big data in healthcare and how does it allow strategic planning? Big data promises better insights into several aspects, including people’s motivation to take up treatment. Based on check-up results, managers can analyze people from different demographic groups and encourage them.

Healthcare providers can also make strategic planning on the availability of medical services in specific areas. Based on the data on chronic diseases in the problematic area, they can add more facilities to reach more patients.

4. Enhance Telemedicine

Telemedicine is one of the most popular uses of big data in healthcare in recent years. Though it has been used for more than 40 years, big data creates significant differences. Thanks to smartphones, wearables, and video conferences make remote clinical services more accurate.

Telemedicine is commonly used for initial diagnosis and primary consultations. Healthcare providers can also use this service to monitor remote patients and perform medical education for professionals, in addition to providing personalized treatments.

5. Improve Supply Chain Management

Big data can be used to improve supply chain management to avoid a weak or fragmented supply chain. With healthcare data analytics, organizations can keep the supply chain efficient. Moreover, maintaining a fluent supply chain and operations can save hospitals a fortune.

Predictive and descriptive analytics help in the decision-making process for pricing, reducing supply variations, and enhancing the ordering process. This helps medical facilities thrive and answer the question of “what is big data in healthcare” and its uses in the industry.

6. Develop New Therapies

Big data promises a better future for the healthcare industry. Healthcare analytics helps in the discovery of new therapies and innovative drugs. Using historical and predictive metrics combined with data visualization techniques, researchers can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the research.

Furthermore, big data plays a significant role in providing security and life-saving innovations through genetic information analysis and data-driven predictions.

The Importance of Big Data in Healthcare


What is big data in healthcare and why is it important? The use of big data in healthcare becomes more critical due to the ever-growing data, increasing healthcare costs, and also a focus on consumerism. Here’s a further explanation.

Ever-increasing Data

Year after year, health records are growing. With the increasing volume of virtual data gained from various sources such as EHRs, wearables, social media, and mobile apps, the health system needs to work harder to manage, analyze, and store it.

This huge amount of information spurs health systems to incorporate big data systems and supporting technologies to collect, analyze, store, and benefit from these large data sets. In addition, this is one of the ways to keep care providers thriving.

Rising Healthcare Costs

Another main reason why big data has a significant role in healthcare is due to the increasing treatment costs. The US has shown rapid healthcare costs in the past 20 years amounting to $3.4 trillion or 18 percent of GDP. Some factors such as lifestyle and government regulations affect this increase.

What is big data in healthcare and how does it help with increasing healthcare costs? Big data allows medical institutions to collect and analyze large amounts of data to find the most potent ways to improve efficiency and performance. This helps promote customer satisfaction.

Growing Consumerism

The importance of big data in healthcare is related to the focus shift among consumers. Today’s consumers want personalized and convenient service in all industries and healthcare is no exception. When using healthcare facilities, customers expect personalized service and an increased system.

The focuses shift on engagement, retention, and quality. Big data provides better insights to consumers, allowing organizations to perform data-driven personalization, so they can enjoy a better experience.

Major Examples of Big Data Analytics in Healthcare


What is big data in healthcare? As aforementioned, big data in healthcare is large data sets of the patients which are collected from various sources. To understand better, here are big data in healthcare examples:

  • Patient outcomes. Medical facilities can utilize big data to develop better treatment for patients by identifying individuals or community trends.
  • Product development. Big data is often used to create innovation for bringing new products to the market.
  • Staffing. This is one of the common examples of big data in healthcare. Hospitals can use large data sets to forecast patient trends and schedule staff without adding up unnecessary labor costs.
  • Crime prevention. Healthcare analytics is often used to simplify the insurance claim process. This helps providers identify frauds, not to mention patients can get their payments faster.
  • Telemedicine. Big data allows medical service providers to monitor and analyze patients’ conditions remotely, as well as provide medical education.
  • Drug prescription. A huge amount of data is utilized to improve drug prescription. The pharmaceutical industry can use the data to improve the prescribing quality and optimize the value of medicines.
  • Supply chain management. Big data is used to keep the supply chain efficient and fluent.
  • Disease management. The collected data allows health experts and researchers to track diseases in real-time and make decisions to manage or control them.
  • Self-harm prevention. Big data allows healthcare institutions to identify individuals who are likely to harm themselves through data analysis.

Challenges of Big Data Application in Healthcare


Now that you know the answer “what is big data in healthcare” question, the next phase would be revealing the obstacles of big data application in the healthcare industry. Though it offers a lot of benefits, a few challenges are waiting ahead.

Data Storage

Data integration and storage become one of the major obstacles to utilizing big data in healthcare market. Medical data comes from many sources, managed by different hospitals, administrative departments, and even states. For this reason, integrating the data can be rather challenging.

To integrate data from these sources, medical institutions need to develop a new infrastructure to facilitate data collaboration. Besides, storage infrastructure is also required to store and protect the data.

Data Literacy

Collecting, processing, and managing a vast amount of data involves complicated processes and many tools. This also requires a high level of skills and knowledge, on which average users may not have the capability to handle these processes.

Data literacy is one of the big obstacles to big data implementation in the healthcare industry. However, self-service business intelligence tools have been created to overcome this issue. Using these tools, organizations can use healthcare analytics even with limited technical knowledge.

Data Sharing

Data sharing means allowing relevant users to access the data. To achieve this goal, it is important to implement online reporting software so all users can be connected with the data. Besides, healthcare can connect with future-oriented industries to make data sharing possible.

Modern reporting tools are required to help anyone perform advanced analytics based on the collected data. Dashboard creator is one good example that allows easy analytics with a few clicks when performing advanced data analysis.


When it comes to big data obstacles, security becomes a constant concern across industries. In healthcare, data centers need to make sure the sensitive data of the patients is carefully protected. This is how the institution can keep patients’ privacy.

Since the data come from various sources, ensuring data security can be a bit of a task. Hospitals need to follow security policies and regulations to maintain the best practices of big data.

So, the biggest question of “what is big data in healthcare has been answered. The enormous amount of data plays a pivotal role in the development of the healthcare industry, thanks to the many uses it offers from disease control to modern telemedicine.

Despite all the good things, hospitals have to face some obstacles when it comes to big data implementation. Security, data literacy, and data storage are among the challenges that need to be solved to make a better future in the industry.

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