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Curing data management issues in the healthcare sector

Eric Tabor  |  April 1, 2014

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Data management in the healthcare industry is reaching a tipping point. According to CDW Healthcare, the medical sector is gearing up to massive data growth – the 500 petabytes of data in 2013 are set to rise to 25,000 PBs by 2020. By 2015, the average hospital could be producing around 665 terabytes of data.

It's not just the amount of data that's the issue, but the types of information organizations collect. About 80 percent of data is unstructured, with imaging, scans and video requiring huge swaths of server space. Also, many healthcare providers are storing redundant information – the average hospital has 800,000 total records, but as many as 96,000 are duplicates. They are costly to store, making filing systems and data management efforts more complex without delivering additional security.

While big data offers potential benefits in patient care, research and treatment, the healthcare sector is flailing. In part, it's due to a relatively unique set of circumstances. The healthcare sector is traditionally fairly tech-averse – that acres of file cabinets containing patient records in manila folders still persist is a testament to how difficult it is to go digital. Initiatives such as electronic health records and healthcare information exchanges that increase the value of data have to contend with a slew of compliance, privacy and confidentiality issues.

Data management services can help healthcare organizations wield their vast information reserves in a cost-effective and secure way. Modern information technology infrastructure and business intelligence tools are critical to the effective utilization and protection of game-changing data-driven strategies, wrote Forbes contributor John Foley. Not only are massive file systems difficult to back up in a comprehensive way, many medical providers don't have any idea how long it would take to make files available following an unplanned incident. A data management services provider can help the organization establish a customized storage and backup system that prioritizes continuity and compliance. With people's lives potentially hanging in the balance, it's vital that healthcare providers alleviate big data headaches.

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Eric Tabor

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