Saving lives with big data and analytics


Big data is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Regardless of how you feel about it, it can help solve problems which simply could not be addressed without big data and advanced analytics.

One area in which big data and analytics can provide huge benefits is the medical arena. In a recent presentation at Connecting Michigan for Health, Mark Wolff, a healthcare consultant for SAS, describes three compelling examples of analytics improving health care and saving lives.

He describes how SAS worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help determine what unstructured text sources were relevant to determining which new medicines or treatments should be allowed to proceed. By collecting information from medical forums and applying text analytics, SAS and the FDA have, for the first time, allowed patient desire to factor into determining whether a treatment is allowed or not. This would not have been possible without big data and without analytics.

Next Wolff discusses how big data and analytics are helping to save lives. SAS worked with Duke Hospital and its neo-intensive care unit to build a simulation of how medical decisions were made within the unit. Thanks to the the data models, doctors were able to prove that extending care by three days both reduced costs and improved outcomes for the babies in the unit. Without this simulation, who would have thought that extending care would ultimately reduce costs?

Finally, in the pharmaceutical industry, SAS is helping develop a data source that's being used to discover better treatments – and perhaps a future cure – for cancer.

If you want to know more about this amazing work, view the video presentation below by Dr. Wolff, who brilliantly boils down the definition of analytics into two easy to understand concepts:

  1. Data reduction (all the fancy math formulas, etc... are simply techniques to reduce data into information).
  2. Confidence in the "truth" of the resulting information.

Wolff also discusses how text analytics applied to information from the Internet helped build a "truth detector" for Web content. First, text analytics helped find relevant sources of text instead of just "noise," and then applied a mathematical formula to rate the information on it's overall "truthiness."

The same big data and analytics processes, especially the text analytics "truth detector," can be used across industries. Imagine what you and your company could achieve by taking all of your unstructured big data and applying advanced analytics. For example:

  • Increased workplace health and safety – by using technician notes, employee feedback and other text sources.
  • Improved brand sentiment – by monitoring social channels and responding appropriately.
  • More accurate oil production forecasting – by using data published on websites from around the world.

A truth detector for the Internet may sound a bit scary from a 1984 big brother perspective, but science and innovation has always been about the discovery of new ideas or insights. As Dr. Wolff mentions in his presentation, cancer researchers now argue that it would be unethical NOT to use big data and the analytic processing power available today in the search for better treatments, and perhaps a cure. Now that's how big data and analytics helps to save lives.

Hear more senior leaders from health care and life sciences discuss industry trends, health analytics and what's next in our health care virtual forum.


About Author

David Pope

Technical Leader, Senior Manager US Energy

David leads the pre-sales technical team for SAS US Energy which solves business problems in the Oil & Gas and Utilities industries using advanced analytics. He is a lifetime learner who enjoys sharing information and helping others to grow their careers. He earned a BS in Industry Engineering and a Computer Programming Certificate from North Carolina State University. Furthermore, he has over 29 years of business experience working with SAS across R&D, IT, Sales and Marketing in the Americas and Europe. He is an expert in working with data and producing insights through the use of analytics. David has presented at SAS Global Forum, the 2012 SAS Government Leadership Summit, IBM’s Information on Demand(IOD), EMC World, CTO Summit Conferences, is the author of the book: "Big Data Analytics with SAS", and he currently holds 14 patents for SAS in several countries: US, CA, Norway, UK, China, Mexico, and Hong Kong.

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