Big data is beginning to mature across many industries. However, in healthcare the work is just getting started. That’s understandable since healthcare has unique privacy rules and regulations that complicate their big data efforts beyond the issues that other industries face. Even so, progress was made in 2014 and next year will see even more. Here are four of my predictions on what we can expect to happen in healthcare big data this year.
1. Intelligent wearables will begin to have a role in healthcare and provide even more data.
No, I’m not talking about wearables of the Fitbit ilk which are largely designed for consumer use. Rather I’m referring to wearables used for patient care. We’ll see wearable connectivity in smart fabrics extended to patient gowns, bed sheets, and bed/table covers, X-ray protective shields, prosthetics, and exoskeletons, to name but a few.
What data can these types of wearables provide beyond that which current monitoring devices provide?
Smart gowns, bed sheets and bed/table covers can conceivably report how much the patient is sweating, variances in sweating by time of day and/or before or after medications. They can even detect chemicals in the sweat to help with disease diagnosis. Some will be designed to collect data on bacteria and viruses the patient has been exposed to or has. Smart fabrics such as these can also report sleep patterns and patient distress patterns, as well as other patient movements. This can be particularly helpful in caring for patients who cannot verbally communicate or who are unable to articulate the information.
Smart x-ray shields can produce and report data on actual x-ray exposure per test and also possibly detect a patient’s radiation levels. In addition, lab coats and scrubs can self-adjust to warm or cool a surgeon while he or she is operating and accumulate data on the physician—such as stress level, alcohol or drug levels, and overall health condition.