The Big Data Bandwagon

Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2017 by Venn Group2 comments

At the back end of 2016, The Kings Fund, a British health think tank, produced their autumn statement which included a damning view of the NHS. Throughout the report, there were criticisms of the Department of Health’s budget and an emphasis on the financial pressure that the NHS faces.

Around the same time as this report, The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimate the economic benefit of Big Data analytics to total £46 billion, which equates to roughly 2.1% of GDP. With experts claiming that this is expected to grow, is it sensible for the NHS to jump on this bandwagon?

What is Big Data analytics?

It is the process of examining large data and varied data sets, whether this is either structured or unstructured data, with the aim to uncover insight that traditional analytics cannot uncover. Big Data deals with 3 V’s: Volume, Variety and Velocity.

Who is using it?

Big Data analytics is being used by more and more Organisations across the globe, taking place in the Banking, Education, Healthcare and Retail sector. This hasn’t been fully rolled out in the NHS, but could they benefit from adopting this approach. The Banking sector is exposed to a wealth of data, with Big Data analytics being used to look at spending patterns, credit information and customer profitability to name a few. For example, Banks are pulling data from their customers Twitter and Facebook pages in order to get to know their customer better. Fraud detection is also an area which Big Data analytics has helped improve the profitability of an organisation. HSBC have been able to gain a better understanding of how criminals operate in abusing the financial system. They have been able to look at the correlation between suspicious accounts, with predicative modelling looking at behaviour patterns and possible incidents. This has resulted in a more proactive system to fraud prevention at HSBC.

Big Data analytics in the NHS?

To combat the financial burden that the NHS is under, many professionals in the Informatics world have called for the introduction of Big Data analytics. The benefits are obvious – it could help reduce costs and inevitably improve health outcomes. One example can be seen at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust where A&E and Big Data analytics have successfully intertwined. The Trust used visual analytics to create an A&E app which monitored staffing levels and patient flow. This in turn has led to improving discharge levels and minimising readmissions. Most importantly, the Trust became one of only 10 trusts to meet the governments A&E target.

Are there any dangers?

However, not all are in favour of Big Data analytics. Mohsen Bayati, a Professor of Information and Technology at Stanford Graduate School, has talked about the aforementioned ‘bandwagon’ citing the importance of human influence. Additionally, lots of information can be extremely useful but how this information interpreted is arguably the most important variable. Other possible dangers, especially within the NHS, are the privacy issues that could occur. How confidential information is used should always be at the discretion of that specific person. Surely this then causes a glass ceiling of how this certain information (e.g. patient data) can be used.

What will happen?

As a member of Venn Group’s NHS Business Intelligence team the impact of Big Data analytics is a very interesting prospect. In 2014, Burning Glass reported that demand for health informatics workers would increase 22% by 2018, something that the BI team at Venn Group have noticed from our own relationships with NHS organisations . With this increase in demand, will we see the NHS jump on the Big Data bandwagon and embrace this inevitable change?

Sam Jaques

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