“Data really powers everything that we do.” — Jeff Weiner, Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
Technology influences each aspect of our everyday lives. Gadgets integral to our daily lives, including smartphones, computers, and wearables, regularly produce enormous volumes of data. From weather forecasts to Netflix movie recommendations, data is everywhere.
It’s merely a collection of facts and figures of our lives, yet power is often associated with it in today’s society. Crucial business decisions, trend identification, and customer experience improvement all depend on this single resource. Consequently, it has created many commercial opportunities, whether they are aimed at making a profit or saving lives.
Healthcare data on an enterprise and consumer level
Healthcare data is a vital component of today’s hype on analytics. The value of the global healthcare analytics market was US$ 23.51 billion in 2020, and it is expected to grow to US$ 96.90 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 15.3% between 2021 and 2030. North America had the lead in healthcare analytics in 2020, and it is anticipated to continue to do so shortly.
Visiting the doctor and taking recommended medical tests are essentially actions for gathering data. In addition to monitoring the patient, doctors need diagnostic tests to confirm their first suspicions about particular disorders. Data collection is the foundation of medical diagnosis, and its effectiveness will increase as it gets more accessible and precise. Diagnosed data offer a comprehensive picture of the patient’s health and are utilized to spot trends. It can be challenging and time-consuming to manually discover patterns, trends, and solutions from large amounts of data. The use of data analytics assists healthcare professionals to assess patients and come up with better diagnoses.
Big data is reshaping the healthcare environment. The landscape of healthcare analytics is shaped primarily by medical databases on a B2B (Business-to-Business) level and health tracking gadgets on the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) level. Medical personnel can access patient information via Electronic Health Records (EHRs) at any time and from a central location.
On the other hand, the landscape of healthcare analytics has been drastically altered by wearable technology such as fitness trackers, health sensors, and smartwatches. Combining health data with technology enables medical providers to design individualized treatment plans, enhance diagnostics, and conduct proactive health monitoring.
Business trends based on healthcare data
The rising trend of minimizing the gap between healthcare and technology has given rise to two streams of businesses – enterprise healthcare analytics and consumer health gadgets.
Healthcare data analysis services contribute to streamlining healthcare processes and improving patient experience. Veradigm, Cerner Corporation, IBM Corporation, McKesson Corporation, MedeAnalytics, Inc., Oracle Corporation, and SAS Institute are the significant companies competing in the healthcare analytics market. Their products and services are changing the dynamics between two distinct domains – healthcare professionals and tech companies.
- Clinical data: Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are the most popular clinical data form. EHRs improve patient care by tracking treatment progress, identifying health trends, disease prevalence, and scope of intervention to curb epidemics. Healthcare professionals utilize this data to identify potential risks to prevent and treat diseases.
- Pharmaceutical data: EHR carries information about drugs and their effect on a patient’s body. This accelerates the development of drugs, pushes clinical trials, and allows for post-market surveillance of drug performance. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Google’s DeepMind AI aided the creation of a 3D model of the coronavirus protein. This model contributed to developing COVID-19 vaccines by improving researchers’ understanding of the virus.
- Behavioral data: A patient’s habits, including nutrition, exercise, smoking, and other behaviors, play a significant role in how well they can function. Understanding the likelihood of contracting chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity is facilitated by health and behavioral data.
On the other end are consumer-level health-tracking devices – fitness trackers, health sensors, and smartwatches. The key players in the wearables industry are Apple, FitBit, and Garmin, representing US$ 41.24 billion, US$ 1.16 billion, and US$ 4.86 billion in revenue, respectively, in 2022. Smartwatches and fitness trackers are the most popular choice among wearable devices among consumers. Smartwatches these days can record precise information related to our bodies.
The Apple Watch Series 8, the most recent model, can record steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, walking data, ear audio levels, sleep history, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and electrocardiograms (ECGs) to detect irregular heart rhythms. Specialized wearables, such as glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, ECG monitors, and fitness trackers, are commonly available in the market. These devices produce a multitude of health indicators, much of which is the backbone of developing Electronic Health Records (EHRs) for medical usage. As more health-tracking devices enter the global market, the important question is: Can and should the data from consumer electronics devices be used for medical purposes?
Feasibility of utilizing consumer-level data for medical purposes
Venturing into this domain requires a bit of skepticism. Medical equipment and medical data are highly precise and subject to stringent protocols. Even though consumer electronic devices ease the data collection procedure, concerns regarding precision, reliability, and standardization of health data collected from these devices inevitably rise. As consumer devices lack clinical precision, the potential of this data hinges on a balance between convenience and accuracy. In this regard, providing medical certifications for such devices should be the way forward.
Apple and FitBit offer devices capable of tracking heart rates and conducting an electrocardiogram (ECG) by assessing heart rhythms. Behind the hardware curtain, this feature is powered by complex algorithms that monitor heart rates and make a predictive analysis of irregular rhythms. Apple’s irregular heart rhythm notification has a 99.3% detection specificity, and this algorithm was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Similarly, FitBit’s irregular heart rhythm notifications are powered by an algorithm with a 98% positive predictive rate, which the FDA also approved. Adding a layer of certification makes medical data collected from these devices standardized and ready to use for clinical purposes. On the device manufacturer’s part, branding certifications should prove to be a vital strategy to increase the acceptability of data from consumer devices being used for medical purposes.
Days of getting medical diagnoses done from the comfort of our homes are still far from being commonplace. As the industry grows, healthcare and tech organizations will face increased collaboration and reshape healthcare approaches. This dynamic can potentially lay the foundation for a new era of patient-centric care. However, the seamless integration of wearables with the human body is still a nascent industry, and the widespread availability of smartwatches and fitness trackers is just the beginning. For now, these gadgets are good at analyzing solely behavioral data and spotting lifestyle discrepancies.
Siyam Mahboob Dhrubo is an avid tech enthusiast. He dreams of turning his diecast cars into real ones and you’ll find him watching documentaries when bored.