Part 1 of this article discussed the overview of Big Data and its application to agriculture. In part 2 we looked at the application of Big Data in the areas of Healthcare, city planning and traffic control, and finally Business Intelligence.
Health care is another area where the application of Big Data technologies can bring about improvement. In most developing and middle income countries like Ghana, the health sector is bedeviled with lack of accurate data to support research, planning and resource allocation, as well as to inform preventive and remedial measures. For example, life style illnesses such as diabetes, stroke and hypertension can be better handled if sufficient data about patients is known. Data such as income bracket of patients, sleeping and waking up patterns, residential environment, work environment, smoking and drinking habits of patients, dieting, etc., can all be stored and processed by Big Data tools to produce useful linkages that will enhance the prevention and handling of these life style diseases.
Another possibility Big Data can bring to healthcare in Ghana is the sharing of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) among health providers. Each EHR is a digital record of each patient containing data such as medical history, laboratory test results, immunization records, allergies, demographics, etc. By connecting healthcare providers to a secure network system, EHRs can be shared among health practitioners, thereby creating a formidable knowledge base for improved diagnosis and treatment of cases. In Ghana, a good number of health facilities lack specialists and experienced health professionals because of the limited numbers of these professionals. However, by using Big Data tools, experienced doctors can share EHRs with less experienced colleagues to study and apply in their own examination of cases. Of course, the identity of patients must be protected at all times, either through masking or some other means.
The introduction of wearable sensors and devices in health delivery to track and monitor the vital signs of patients is another key application of Big Data technologies. By integrating these monitoring mechanisms with Clinical Decision Support (CDS) systems, doctors can receive real time notifications about patient health status and act accordingly. Besides, the real-time data provided by these wearable devices can be analyzed by CDS software to offer insights based on which doctors can take prescriptive decisions.
In Ghana, the National Health Insurance Scheme sometimes faces problems of over-stated claims and fraudulent submissions. Some service providers have even been suspended in the past for these reasons. Big Data analytics can be a panacea for healthcare fraud if adopted properly. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the United States prevented more than $210.7 million in healthcare fraud in one year using predictive analytics (https://mapr.com/blog/5-big-data-trends-healthcare-2017/). By analyzing huge historical datasets of claims, and using machine learning algorithms, patterns and anomalies can be detected and acted upon.
CITY PLANNING AND TRAFFIC CONTROL
Think of a city like Accra with all the traffic during rush hour. With most road users having mobile phones, real time traffic maps can be produced. This will help improve traffic flow by helping drivers to avoid congested routes. Keeping this data for some time will assist in identifying clearly traffic congestion patterns that will assist in city planning. As automobile technology improves, complex communication systems of cars will allow communication among cars and sensors in roadways. Communication among cars will lead to improved safety and optimized traffic flow. Communication with sensors will help the vehicle and its driver to learn about the real-time traffic patterns, congestion and weather conditions. With the data from vehicle communication systems, a central traffic control system can help reduce overall congestion, energy and air pollution. This will also be useful for controlling congestion during accidents and natural disasters such as street flooding.
One of the things that aid long term transportation planning that we have not taken seriously is travel behavior. Mobile apps like Uber collect information on how people travel in cities where they operate; combining this information with that generated by Taxify, Yenko and Hugotaxi will offer essential data to City and Transportation planners.
Big data offers corporate bodies more information which empowers their teams to make quick decisions. This ensures that business stay ahead of their competitors. Information also helps in making the right decision and big data particularly helps in making smart decisions in a short time. Also, big data provides greater insight through data visualization. Data visualization offers the opportunity to develop trends for decision-making. Decision making is faster with charts and visual aids. With the advancement of ICT, the way consumers purchase goods is changing. Also, businesses are changing the way they engage customers. With all the changes going on, businesses can be left behind. Big data can help businesses create forecasts that will offer valuable insight into the operations of the organization.
Author: Gilbert Mombazaa Kpelim-Etime – (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
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