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Can the data revolution contribute to better, cheaper healthcare?

Healthcare providers have been working for years to gather more data from a variety of sources, collecting detailed information on patients' medical histories as well as the financial aspects of the health industry. By collecting this information, they're able to fine-tune their strategies and better cater to consumers' needs. That leads to the all-important question - financially, what's the end result of all these efforts? How will the big data revolution contribute to the bottom line?

According to Healthcare Technology, the effects could be tremendous. The news source cited a survey from the eHealth Initiative and the College of Health Information Management Executives, which found that almost 80 percent of healthcare providers say that leveraging big data is important for their organizations. The chief reason is that by analyzing financial information about consumers' ability to pay for healthcare, they can fine-tune their approach to charging premiums and financing people's plans.

The more information they collect about people's medical and financial histories, the more equipped they will be to make sound decisions. Big data analytics can help firms make educated predictions about people's health conditions and economic situations, based on many profiles of similar individuals who have come before them.

Salon.com has likewise speculated that healthcare firms can save money by using analytics to fine-tune their approaches. Salon cited an estimate from McKinsey and Company that big data could save the industry almost half a trillion dollars.

Siemens said in a printed statement to Salon that more efficiency is needed in the health industry - a significant amount of money that healthcare providers spend is wasted because of unnecessary procedures and overhead costs. Data analysis can help streamline the process.

"Health care is about people, not numbers," the company stated. "Big data's growing role in health care does not change that. Health data, at the end of the day, is also about people, whether exercise statistics or genetic information. By taking advantage of the wealth of health data available through working with big data experts, providers are able to identify areas where improvement is possible and will begin to realize better outcomes, improved efficiency and a more sustainable healthcare system."

Data quality is clearly a vital part of this process. Healthcare firms can markedly improve their efficiency by analyzing their procedures in greater depth, but they will only be successful if they begin with accurate information.