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Big Data Has the Potential to Transform Health Care If the vast amount of health data collected by every source from insurance records to exercise apps is pooled, analytics can help create a much healthier society.

By Stefan Groschupf Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Big data has the potential to transform, well, everything. The growing sum of information at our fingertips is being analyzed and used to do everything from predict crime to accelerate business growth. And now, innovative companies are using it to make health care better.

The growing amount of medical data holds the clues to predicting flu outbreaks, preventing diseases, cutting medical costs and improving overall patient care. Given all these promises, it's no surprise that medical data is in the spotlight – attracting startups and investors looking to fuel data-driven health care. Venture capital funding for health care technology firms has increased 176 percent this year, with the majority of funding allocated to data analytics companies, according to Rock Health, a San Francisco–based seed funding firm.

With more and more information being gathered in the form of electronic health records and insurance claims, smart organizations are using it to personalize and enhance care. Likewise, consumers are turning to personal health tracking devices to take control of their own care. But as data continues to be produced and gathered how can organizations truly tap its potential to make health care better and capture the business opportunity?

Related: Google Is Interested in Your Health, But Deterred by Regulations

The symptoms

It's no surprise that MIT Technology Review's recent report on data-driven health care cited that the biggest challenge is breaking down the silos of information to pull all the data together. Currently, medical data is held captive in multiple sources making it near impossible for businesses to get a singular, comprehensive view of what is going on. The majority of data-driven health care solutions offer Band-Aid solutions simply pulling data from one source, rather than all of the sources.

So where is all the data coming from? According to the MIT Technology Review report, today's health care data lives in multiple buckets including data from sensors, public health records, electronic medical records, insurance claims, genomic data, family health history and mobile health apps. Getting the most valuable insights requires analyzing all of these layers to create actionable insights that patients, doctors, researchers and business users can understand.

Together these sources of data, both new and old, offer detailed information that could lead to new insights into disease prevention and treatment. To be successful, data analytic solutions must be able to analyze all of these sources — even the new ones.

The growth in personal health tracking devices is one source of an emerging data fountain. There are currently more than 100,000 mobile health apps that measure health indicators, offering a constant read on patient health. A Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health study estimated that 95 million Americans currently use at least one mobile health technology, and a majority of the data that they're generating is on mobile devices. According to the same report, within the next five years more than 1.7 million smart phone users will have downloaded a mobile health app. With all of these growing information sources, the most impactful data analytics technology must be capable of integrating every source of data.

Related: Health-Care Innovators Get President Obama's Attention

The cure

The prescribed solution to the fragmented ecosystem of medical data is innovative technology that can incorporate all available patient data no matter its volume, velocity or variety. With multiple sources of data a flexible data analytics solution is paramount.

So when looking for the cure all to data-driven health care pains, it's important to find a solution that connects every single data source and analyzes structured, unstructured and real-time data. When implementing a technology that accomplishes all three of these tasks, organizations can be sure that all of their important data is there and up to date — including clinical narratives, doctor notes and real-time data from bedside monitors. Without the ability to incorporate that information, insights are not as valuable as they could be.

What's more is after all of the data is analyzed, the actionable insights must be portrayed in a way that patients and doctors can visualize and understand. After all, what good are medical insights if they aren't in the hands of those who can put them to use?

While the biggest challenge for data-driven health care companies is analyzing all of these valuable insights, today's technology is stepping up to the plate. With the right technology prescription, organizations can find the cure all for improving health care.

Related: 5 Ways Technology Can Help Improve Your Health

Stefan Groschupf

CEO of Datameer

Stefan Groschupf is co-founder and CEO of Datameer, a provider of big-data analytics. A big-data veteran and serial entrepreneur with roots in the open-source community, Groschupf was one of the early contributors to Nutch, the open-source project that spun off Hadoop.

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