IBM's big data analysis tools improve operations at Seattle Children's Hospital
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IBM’s big data analysis tools improve operations at Seattle Children’s Hospital

One of the areas in which IT advancements are developing most quickly is healthcare. While innovations such as electronic health records and telemedicine might come to mind most immediately, these technologies must be viewed as essential components of a larger picture. The information gleaned from these tools can be leveraged to further improve patient care if hospitals include big data analytics in their information technology implementation strategies.

Better, faster, stronger
IBM recently announced that, with the help of its big data technology, Seattle Children's Hospital has been able to improve outcomes for many of its patients. Along with services from Brightlight, a big data firm, these IBM solutions have been able to help the medical organization run queries on patient data faster than ever before. While, in the past, the processes could sometimes take weeks, doctors can now arrive at answers in mere seconds. In healthcare settings, every instant counts.

The leading IT company explained that one major benefit of harnessing the power of the IBM PureData System for Analytics is that based on specific questions, the technologies can discover commonalities in Seattle Children's Hospital's vast stores of data. By having quicker access to records reflecting previous courses of treatment, medical professionals can make better-informed decisions about how to address one of their young patients' unique needs. Additionally, this capability translates into being able to find areas where current methods may be falling short. 

"Working with Brightlight and using the IBM big data system, we are able to fully understand the hospital's 'big data' – the thousands of data points associated with each child – immediately, as needed," said Wendy Soethe, manager of enterprise data warehousing at Seattle Children's Hospital. "As we get deeper into data, we're actually able to see new commonalities in treatments so we can better identify new protocols, make improvements in care, and ultimately make a difference in the type of care children are receiving."

EMC has also pointed out that big data has the potential to revolutionize quality of care in the medical system. According to EWeek, one of the reasons for this is that the amount of information healthcare providers are amassing is immense: EMC's Dave Dimond, chief strategist for industry solutions, told the source that a threefold increase in this data is likely to occur between 2013 and 2016. In fact, Dimond said that eventually, the amount of medical data will total 15 zettabytes. Without the ability to centralize and make use of these records, hospitals could become overwhelmed, losing track of essential information.

Dimond stressed that supporting accountable care in the future will depend on the ability to perform analytics. By doing so, he told the news provider that physicians could monitor outcomes more effectively, even to the point of being about to foresee readmissions. With better predictive capabilities, medical organizations could offer better preventative treatment, saving costs for all parties and potentially boosting patients' quality of life.

Of course, the effectiveness of any big data initiative depends on IT resources. Pairing the right solutions with valuable IT planning services, healthcare facilities can support strong bottom lines and healthy communities.