Published by Executive Insight, December 2013. Big Data is an information technology term that describes the gathering and analysis of sets of data too large and complex to be managed by traditional data management tools.
Big Data is evolving into an important tool in many industries and has the potential to continue expanding its role as innovative and creative new applications are explored. The results that will be realized by overcoming some of the challenges of capturing, storing, searching, sharing and visualizing enormous sets of data will be revealing.
The promises of Big Data is that as ever larger sets of data are compiled from a variety of sources and merged, there is great potential for extracting valuable insights when the data is organized and expressed in useful ways.
In healthcare, Big Data has already found many applications. A map of the entire human genome now exists and new therapies are being developed as a result of the ability to capture incomprehensibly long chains of genetic information into data. Data can be organized into a form that can be analyzed for patterns and anomalies that are unique to a variety of specific medical conditions. Applications include:
- IBM’s super computer, Watson, has been retained by Memorial Sloan Kettering to analyze thousands of patient records and histories along with all available clinical research data, in the hopes that the super computer will be able to assist in choosing the most appropriate drug regimes to suit each patient.
- Health workers in western Africa are using smartphone cameras with magnification lenses to test blood samples and diagnose malaria cases in the field. By merging their data with the smartphone’s GPS location and weather data, they are able to map where weather conditions might arise that would be hospitable to outbreaks of malaria and deploy preventative medication and mosquito netting to those potential hotspots.
The design and construction industries have also amassed significant sets of data with the goal of improving our industry’s efficiency, cost and schedule control, aiding in the integration of building systems and offering additional advantages to the delivery of building projects.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is recognized as an important part of any building project’s conception, implementation and operational life. A robust model has the potential to make great contributions to the work of designers, builders and facilities managers by improving productivity, increasing speed of delivery, improving the coordination of trades and reducing project costs. These benefits will, without a doubt, be instrumental in shaping the future of the design and construction industries.
The gathering and organization of information into building information models may also offer a source of useful data to industries and services that occupy our buildings. BIM can also provide a medium for the visualization of their data in a virtual representation of the buildings where they work.
In the case of healthcare facilities, hospitals are subject to the advance of clinical and information technologies, economic and regulatory forces as well as social expectations. There is also an increased pressure to achieve high standards of operational efficiency. In order to make incremental improvements, it is important to first be able to measure the current state of operations. Using BIM to visualize clinical activities can be a powerful tool for the measurement, visualization and communication of clinical information.
- Daily census could be mapped by patient type in order to plan staffing and distribute resources.
- Hospital-borne infections (HAIs) can be visualized to help identify a source of infection.
- Slips and falls can be mapped to units or rooms where they occur to determine if some areas require additional safety features or do not achieve adequate patient visualization.
- Electronic ICU monitoring units can use floor plans as a point of reference when communicating to staff on the Unit.
Great innovations often occur at the intersection of seemingly unrelated endeavors. In the case of the design/construction industry and healthcare, both increasingly rely on the insights gained by the analysis of large sets of data. The convergence of their data can offer a potential for deeper insights and fuel for broader analysis that will benefit designers and clinicians alike.
Graham Davies was formerly a planner with Array Architects.