Big data opportunities lure healthcare tech developers

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Big data has a lot of potential to improve healthcare and a number of companies are developing applications to help make that happen, according to a new report.

Healthcare market research firm Kalorama Information dove into government and trade source databases to outline some of the uses of big data and the groups that are driving the push for those programs. Established healthcare technology projects like IBM Watson, for example, created a new era of computing, while more recent ventures from Google and Apple could bring even more patient and genomic data into the fold.

“Big data companies are looking to connect tens of millions of data sets from almost every facet of the health system—office visits, surgeries, lab tests, images, medical devices, prescriptions and more,” Bruce Carlson, Kalorama Information’s publisher, said in an announcement.

“The derived data can be used to create patient care guidelines.”

Working alongside these IT companies makes sense right now, according to Kalorama. New software allows for faster, more far-reaching data collection and it can analyze complex information from sources like spectroscopes and biochip tests.

In vitro diagnostic medical device companies are also leading the charge, according to the report. These device makers are partnering with IT companies to allow laboratories quicker, more efficient access to diagnostic data and genomics.

Major payers have a role as well, according to Kalorama. Large insurers such as Aetna, UnitedHealth and Kaiser Permanente seek more personalized care, and are also seeking out partnerships in the IT and research space.

Aetna, for instance, is in talks with Apple to provide Apple Watches to enrollees.

Payers are investing in projects that can identify health biomarkers earlier as part of preventive care, too, according to the report. Big data analytics can allow those markers to be defined and flagged in screenings more quickly.

Future challenges for the industry include storage concerns, as more data is collected there may be fewer places to store it. Privacy policies may also need to be re-examined to allow researchers to take full advantage of patient data collections, according to the report.

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