Muqbil Ahmar
July 11, 2017

How Big Data has the potential to revolutionize India's Healthcare startups by treating the hardest medical problems

Screenshot 2017-06-22 21.23.10Remote and continuous monitoring of a patient’s health has become possible due to technologies such as Big Data, Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). This is helpful for the healthcare sector in India, particularly the technology startups operating in this space. Through a sophisticated network of sensors and analytics, a patient’s data gets transmitted to Cloud-based platforms to be stored, aggregated and analyzed. Regular updates to physicians also lessen chances of redundant or unsuitable care and improve patient safety. It is particularly helpful in treating diseases which need continuous monitoring such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.


Case Study 1

Mrs D’Souza is a 72-year-old patient from Goa with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart doesn't pump enough blood and oxygen and patients rarely live beyond five years of developing the disease. She should frequently visit her doctor, but she doesn’t. Why? Her physician is always monitoring her well-being and is kept updated of any pre-conditions that may affect her health. Her vital information such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar is constantly being monitored through sensors placed on her body and transmitted through smart medical devices to her clinicians. In fact, the pharmacy and physician are both alerted when she misses out on her scheduled medication.

“I never imagined leading a normal life. I don’t have to go to the hospital every now and then for checkups. My visits to the hospital have reduced heavily, giving me more time with my family. All thanks to this innovative technology,” she said.

Overall reduced costs of patient care

The biggest advantage with these innovations in technology is that they have improved home care facilities and brought down healthcare costs. Global research firm McKinsey projects that the use of Big Data in healthcare can reduce the healthcare data management expenses by $300--500 billion. According to another survey, 60% of healthcare institutions feel that Cloud-based Big Data services could reduce healthcare costs by more than 45%.


Case Study 2

Another situation, Mr. Ganesan, a 65-year-old from Chennai has been on dialysis after both his kidneys failed four years back. He had to regularly visit the hospital for dialysis sessions. Today, he is treated within the comfort of his home. His vital parameters, history and profile, and the inputs of the dialysis machine are collected with the help of medical devices attached to his body. The data is transmitted to his caregivers.

“My quality of life has improved considerably. I always used to be anxious about my fluctuation blood sugar and blood pressure. But now, I feel at ease. I know someone is watching. Earlier, I used to be transported from one hospital to another for treatment, which used to create a lot of hassle for my family. But, now I get my treatment and also see my grandchildren playing in front of me. I feel a lot better now,” he said.

Quick decisions in medical emergencies

In medical emergencies, quick decisions have to be taken to save a patient’s life. Big Data and Analytics aid health specialists make improved decisions in high-stress situations, by allowing doctors to conduct high-speed analysis, run through millions of research papers and genetic sequencing data, and numerous treatment records, giving them insights into how to treat a patient having a specific blood group or DNA sequence. Based on their analysis they decide on the best course of action. Using Analytics tools, doctors can benchmark patients against past occurrences, analyze how patients with specific genes respond to different treatments, and make decisions based on facts, not judgment. Earlier what could be achieved for only a small number of patients (5-10%) can now be done for a significantly increased number, drastically improving chances of survival.

“The effect of Analytics on healthcare is crystal clear. Diseases can be prevented or cured in their initial stages. It also helps in preventing needless hospitalization, visits to the emergency department, and intensification of the severity of the ailment. All this translates into lower costs of care and improved health,” said Dhiren Singh, an official from Merlin Medical (a company working in the field of healthcare and Analytics).  

What is Big Data in Healthcare?

The data includes a patient’s medical information (including doctor’s notes and prescriptions, results from imaging, laboratory, pharmacy, and insurance); data in electronic patient records (EPRs); social media posts, including Twitter feeds, blogs, status updates on Facebook, also less patient-specific information like emergency care data, news feeds, and articles in medical journals.

Big Data can prove to be really helpful in healthcare, particularly in a Third World and developing country like India, which has a huge population outside healthcare and where resources are limited. Indian healthcare tech startups can leverage the technology to provide efficient and cheaper services. It is a promising field, providing insights into large data sets and improving outcomes while reducing costs.

Now, the patient in ICU and his kin need not worry about the absence of doctors and nurses. The patient is constantly under the scanner.

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