Blog /

What is Big Data in Healthcare and How to Access It?

Publish Date
Read Time
August 21, 2023

According to Forrester Consulting, 82% of organizations demonstrating advanced analytics maturity have witnessed positive year-over-year revenue growth over the last three years.

Big data in healthcare holds the potential to transform patient care, population research, and operational strategies. As data takes the lead in driving insightful decision-making, the transformative impact on healthcare becomes increasingly evident.

However, despite data accessibility being more streamlined in other industries, the healthcare sector is still playing catch-up in this regard.

How Big Data in Healthcare is Different from Real World Data

Big Data in Healthcare: Big data in healthcare refers to the vast and diverse sets of information that are generated through various channels in the healthcare ecosystem. These data encompass clinical records, patient demographics, diagnostic images, genomic sequences, and much more. The distinguishing feature of big data lies in its volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. In essence, big data in healthcare encompasses information that is too extensive and intricate to be effectively managed and analyzed using conventional methods.

Real World Data (RWD): Real world data, on the other hand, encompasses all data that are collected outside the constraints of a controlled clinical trial environment. RWD includes data from electronic health records (EHRs), claims databases, patient registries, and wearable devices. While RWD is a subset of big data in healthcare, it provides a comprehensive view of patient health and treatment outcomes in real-world settings, offering insights into the effectiveness of therapies beyond the confines of clinical trials.

Types of Data in Healthcare and How They’re Generated

From electronic health records (EHRs) to genetic sequences, wearable device metrics to administrative records, the multitude of data streams generates various forms of data, such as:

  • Clinical data encompasses patient medical records, diagnostic images, lab results, and physician notes, offering a comprehensive view of patient health. EHRs capture patient information during clinical encounters. Lab tests and diagnostic imaging procedures generate data that contributes to medical histories and treatment plans.
  • Genomic data involves genetic sequences and markers, providing insights into individual genetic variations and disease predispositions. DNA sequencing technologies analyze an individual’s DNA, revealing genetic information. Genetic tests target specific genes or markers to assess disease risk and treatment options.
  • Wearable data includes health metrics like heart rate, activity levels, and sleep patterns collected by wearable devices and remote sensors. Wearable devices, such as smartwatches, continuously monitor physiological parameters. Remote patient monitoring employs medical sensors to transmit real-time health data to healthcare providers.
  • Administrative data comprises billing records, claims data, and insurance information, offering insights into services, diagnoses, and payments. Claims databases compile data from medical billing and insurance claims. Administrative records provide a financial perspective on patient care.
  • SDOH data includes demographic and geographic factors influencing health outcomes, providing context beyond medical data. Demographic data is gathered during patient interactions. Geographic data highlights location-based factors affecting health, like access to healthcare resources.
  • Patient-reported data includes self-assessments, experiences, and symptom tracking, contributing to a holistic view of patient well-being. Patients complete surveys or use apps to report symptoms, experiences, and medication adherence, enhancing patient engagement.
  • Research data involves clinical trial and biomedical research data, contributing to scientific advancements and treatment insights. Clinical trials generate data through controlled experiments. Biomedical research generates data from laboratory experiments aimed at understanding diseases and developing therapies.

Using Big Data in Healthcare

Access to big data in healthcare serves as a transformative force with the potential to enhance patient care, research advancements, and operational efficiency. Invaluable insights not only refine clinical decisions and predict disease trends, but drive other applications that include:

  • Predictive Analytics: Machine learning algorithms and AI thrive on patterns and correlations within vast datasets. They can help predict disease outbreaks, patient readmissions, and individual treatment responses. By identifying hidden relationships, these models enable proactive intervention and resource allocation.
  • Clinical Decision Support: Integrating analytics into clinical workflows empowers healthcare professionals with predictive insights. By analyzing patient data, including medical history, symptoms, and test results, machine learning models can assist in making accurate diagnoses and recommending optimal treatment plans.
  • Drug Discovery and Development: The process of identifying new drugs and treatment modalities is traditionally time-consuming and resource-intensive. Predictive analytics accelerates this process by sifting through massive datasets to pinpoint potential drug candidates and predict their efficacy, significantly reducing research timelines.
  • Population Health Management: Leveraging analytics enhances the precision of population health strategies. By analyzing diverse patient data, including demographics, socioeconomic factors, and health behaviors, healthcare systems can tailor preventive care programs and interventions to specific groups, improving overall health outcomes.
  • Personalized Medicine: Big data in healthcare enables the creation of patient-specific models that consider genetic, clinical, and lifestyle data to recommend personalized treatment plans. This approach enhances treatment effectiveness and minimizes adverse effects by accounting for individual variations.
  • Image and Signal Analysis: Machine learning algorithms excel at processing and interpreting complex medical images, such as MRIs and CT scans. They can accurately detect anomalies, aiding radiologists in early disease detection and improving patient outcomes.

Privacy and Security Considerations

Utilizing big data in healthcare requires significant privacy and security considerations. Organizations need to address:

  • Data De-identification: Ensuring that patient data is stripped of personally identifiable information before analysis.
  • Data Encryption: Implementing robust encryption methods to safeguard data during storage and transmission.
  • Access Controls: Restricting access to authorized personnel and ensuring compliance with regulations like HIPAA.
  • Consent and Transparency: Obtaining patient consent and maintaining transparency about data usage to establish trust.

Accessing Big Data in Healthcare

Organizations can access big data in healthcare through the Datavant ecosystem. Datavant connects disparate data sources, empowering organizations to gain a comprehensive view of patients, uncover new insights, and deliver on business objectives.

The Datavant ecosystem provides access and connectivity to various data, including:

  • SDOH data
  • Clinical data
  • Claims data
  • Patient records
  • Radiology images

Big data in healthcare holds immense potential in transforming healthcare. With Datavant, organizations can securely access healthcare data.


Connect to the Nation's Largest Health Data Ecosystem

Request a demo

Achieve your boldest ambitions

Explore how Datavant can be your health data logistics partner.

Contact us