Our 7 Best Big Data Stories of 2017

Big data isn’t a buzzword. Here’s how it’s changing healthcare.

Big data has left hardly any area of healthcare untouched. It is advancing how providers diagnose and treat diseases, how organizations drive efficiency, and even how investigators and governments conduct research. And this is just the beginning of number-crunching in healthcare.

Healthcare Analytics News™ meticulously covered big data and its many offshoots over the past year. The beat took our editors, writers, and expert contributors to wildly different corners of the industry—and wildly new ideas. But a single binding force united most of these distinct stories: the notion that data, when done right, can improve healthcare.

Below are 7 of our best big data stories of 2017. Of course, our coverage does not end here, so comb through our big data and analytics archives if you want to dig deeper. Otherwise, read on, and feel free to leave your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

An Innovative Way of Collecting DNA Samples Should Have Researchers Salivating. An innovative start-up is paying people to submit their spit for genetic research. The trove of data promises to yield untold insights, advancing our knowledge of, well, ourselves. Not to mention that the concept impressed Mark Cuban to the tune of $200,000. (He also provided comment for this story.)

How Watson Can Help Pinpoint Therapies for Cancer Patients. IBM’s cornerstone artificial intelligence technology, Watson, earns plenty of praise and skepticism, depending on who is talking. But this is a success story: The technology scoured mountains of data, both for patients and clinical trials, to identify potential alternative therapies for cancer patients, and it found what human experts did not.

How Mayo Clinic Plans to Use Data to Fight Pointless Lab Tests. Unnecessary laboratory tests gobble up time, money, and resources. Electronic health records and data from more than 1500 Mayo Clinic care models could help combat the problem. “Laboratories have been great at generating data, but we have done a really poor job of owning that data and understanding how to use that data to, in aggregate, help clinicians,” a project leader said. That is about to change.

Fighting Cancer with CAR T and Big Data. Oncology is raving about chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, and for good reason: A high point for precision medicine, it could help patients with cancer for years to come. But, as with everything else in healthcare, the treatment and the hospitals offering it could benefit from better use of big data. This feature story covers not only what is happening with CAR T and big data, but also how hospitals can get in on the action.

State-Level Influenza 'Nowcasting' Remains a Thorny Issue. By monitoring and forecasting the spread of the flu, researchers and public health officials can prepare hospitals, governments, and the publics for outbreaks. So far, however, such efforts have proved to be disappointing. The reason: The data has not been set free.

What Cancer Treatments Can Take from Major Retailers. At Harvard University, business and healthcare researchers are trying to adapt Amazon’s data practices to medicine. How can healthcare capitalize on its sweeping stores of data to deliver the right care at the right time? “We intend to make this vision a reality,” the experts write, “but it will take continued hard work from innovators across the cancer space.”

A New Data Platform Aims to Build Upon ClinicalTrials.gov. In theory, the government database ClinicalTrials.gov is a boon for research, but in practice it has suffered from a few problems. Although its architects are trying to fix various issues, private entities are also stepping in, hoping to make the invaluable data accessible to all kinds of researchers. Primary Endpoints is betting that increased availability will lead to improved investigations.