There's tremendous potential for the big data movement to establish an even stronger foothold in the medical field than it already has. By collecting greater volumes of information about their patients' medical histories and insurance coverage, physicians can deliver better treatment to people who desperately need it. The possibilities are endless - including better medical attention today, smarter predictions about future ailments and wiser insurance and payment structures, just to name a few.
However, some physicians are still worried about big data and its impact on their future. According to Information Week, doctors worry that if data analytics become too prominent, we will eventually reach the point at which computer programs are controlling our every move. Medical professionals will no longer be able to rely on their intelligence and experience to help them make decisions - they'll be sapped of their free will.
Thomas Santo, a physician in New York City, told the news source that if healthcare analytics go too far, they could strangle the medical system, leaving doctors incapable of doing their jobs effectively.
"For any physician who sees their reimbursement cut by providing 'suboptimal care,' as deemed by [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], what is to stop them from refusing to serve their sickest, most chronically ill and frequently hospitalized patients?" Santo said. "In so doing, they raise the 'quality' of care they provide and lower the cost at the same time."
Cognitive computing isn't everything
Perhaps these fears are overstated. There's certainly potential for data to revamp the medical field, but human doctors will never be obsolete.
Information Week recently analyzed the changing face of medical analytics. The news source acknowledged that artificial intelligence is revolutionizing everything - for example Watson, IBM's well-publicized supercomputer, uses data-driven processes to conquer everything from customer relationship management to the game show, "Jeopardy!". But no computer can replace doctors altogether. Kerrie Holley, a research fellow at IBM, made this clear in a phone interview with Information Week.
"This technology will in no way replace doctors," Holley said. "It'll be an aid to doctors, and it will [enable] them to cut down on error rates."
We're moving toward a future when physicians and analytics solutions work in concert, not competition, with one another. If the medical field works to improve information mining, data quality and analytics, the possibilities are endless. Together, doctors and data can improve health for everyone.