April 2018

Access to big data driving interest in healthcare innovators

With healthcare providers across the world struggling to cope with a sharp increase in the number of patients in recent years, interest in big data is driving a timely surge of investment in some of the sector’s most innovative companies.

Big data technologies and providers have been earmarked by some of the world’s biggest businesses – including Alphabet, Amazon and Apple – who are seeking to increase their influence in digital healthcare, with recent months bringing a spike in activity.

In December, CVS announced a proposed $69bn takeover of insurance provider Aetna, sparking a spate of major investment announcements in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

In January, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase revealed they would be forming a joint venture with the aim of reducing healthcare costs for their employees in the US. Then in March, Cigna confirmed a deal to acquire pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts for more than $50bn.

Rock Health, a seed and early-stage venture fund that supports start-ups in next-generation healthcare technology, reported that the sector attracted a record $5.8bn in venture capital funding last year.

Extreme data

At the heart of this sudden frenzy is the knowledge that the industry has barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring innovative technologies and concepts that will handle the estimated 750 quadrillion bytes of health-related data produced by humankind every day, according to Fortune’s ‘Big Data Meets Biology’ report.

Some of these technologies are mobile assets, providing data on a more granular and real-time level and therefore allowing for a greater understanding of an individual’s health, raising the prospect of considerable cost savings and improved efficiencies.

The relevant data itself does not just concern an individual’s history of illnesses and ailments, but also his or her ongoing state of wellbeing: where they go, how they sleep, what they consume and the environments in which they live and work.

Operational efficiencies

According to ‘Big Data in the Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Industries’, big data vendors generated nearly $4bn from hardware, software and professional services revenues in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries last year. These investments are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 15 percent over the next three years, eventually accounting for nearly $6bn by the end of 2020. Crucially, the report added that big data technologies have allowed hospitals and other healthcare providers to achieve cost reductions of more than 10%, outcome improvements by as much as 20% for certain conditions, a 30% growth in revenue and a 35% increase in patient access to services.

“It’s not the data – it’s the analytics,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, told Fortune. “Up until three-to-five years ago, all that data was just sitting there. Now it’s being analysed and interpreted. It’s the most radical change happening in health care.”


The importance of extreme data in healthcare, especially in relation to Artificial Intelligence, was also highlighted by a series of experts at the recent HIMSS UK Executive Leadership Summit.

Professor Daniel Ray, director of data science at NHS Digital, a division of the UK’s National Health Service, told Government Computing. “We want to get data out quicker and faster. We want to push the right data to the right people, rather than them having to collate it.

“We are making improvements in the ways our customers can access data. These are designed to simplify the process, speeding it up and increasing efficiency, whilst not losing any of the important checks and balances to keep information secure.”

Mark Davies, chief medical officer of HIMSS UK, said that introducing AI into the NHS “will be like introducing any new drug to treat a disease”.

Amy Galea, deputy director of transforming health systems at NHS England, echoed her fellow panellists’ thoughts on the potential impact of extreme data management and technologies in healthcare by adding: “The NHS is more like a collection of organisations. Linking data could give us the potential to be a truly National Health Service.”

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Rock Health: https://rockhealth.com/reports/2017-year-end-funding-report-the-end-of-the-beginning-of-digital-health/

Big Data in the Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Industry: 2017 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts: http://www.reportlinker.com/p05049472/Big-Data-in-the-Healthcare-Pharmaceutical-Industry-Opportunities-Challenges-Strategies-Forecasts.html

Fortune: http://fortune.com/2018/03/19/cvs-aetna-healthcare-mergers-big-data/

Fortune’s Big Data Meets Biology: http://fortune.com/2018/03/19/big-data-digital-health-tech/

Government Computing: http://central-government.governmentcomputing.com/news/the-role-of-data-and-ai-in-healthcare-6095092

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