Industry consolidation, new applications advance big data challenges and opportunities in healthcare.

Market consolidation and new applications such as electronic medical records and data analytics are expanding big data’s role in the healthcare industry, and that is a big deal. After all, the data amounts and types are growing at much faster rates, which create both challenges and opportunities.

Consider Aetna’s bid to buy Humana. On July 3, Aetna said it will acquire Humana in a $37 billion deal. Just read what Bruce D. Broussard, president and CEO of Humana, said in a statement: “Through the use of technology and integrated services to simplify the consumer experience, the combined entity will be even more effective in meeting the health needs of many more people especially people with chronic conditions, who will benefit from Humana’s home health, pharmacy management and data analytics programs.”

Expect more healthcare industry consolidation. As Matt Dunning reports in this recent Business Insurance article, experts say “the proposed merger between Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. all but assures further consolidation within the health insurance industry.”

According to a new survey report by Bass, Berry & Sims, published in association with Mergermarket, 86 percent of healthcare and life services professionals expect mergers and acquisitions to increase in the industry, with capital needs and economies of scale as two major reasons for the consolidation. Consolidation can increase capital, and with more capital, healthcare organizations can better deliver on big data applications. And economies of scale mean they’ll be better able to take advantage of all that big data offers. Survey respondents also identified the need for IT support capabilities as a major driver for consolidations in the future.

And then there are the other trends driving big data. According to the recent Healthcare IT Vision 2015 report from Accenture, 41 percent of health executives report that the volume of data their organization manages has grown by more than 50 percent in the last year. Clinical and operational systems, electronic health records and connected health devices are among the sources that have contributed to a growing influx of data. (Read more about Accenture’s thoughts about huge data, smarter systems, better healthcare.)

The Accenture research supports trends also identified by a Gatepoint Research report commissioned by Red Hat. Among the top operational issues most important to respondents were containing technology costs and ensuring adequate storage for unstructured data. (You can learn more about the report findings in this Healthcare Information Technology Trends slide presentation.)

Earlier this year, Red Hat and Hortonworks announced an expansion of their strategic alliance committed to expanding options for healthcare organizations and their big data initiatives. The collaboration is directed at helping organizations take advantage of big data through an open, modern data architecture that is scalable, flexible and accessible. We’ve covered that announcement in an earlier blog post on the collaboration. The two companies plan to deliver infrastructure solutions that enable the next generation of data-driven applications, and this will enable enterprises, including healthcare companies, to more quickly analyze big data to realize business insights and value.”

By the way, in the aforementioned Gatepoint Research report, nearly all responders aim to improve efficiency and 70 percent see Red Hat adding value in achieving that goal.

What trends do you see advancing big data in the healthcare industry? And what challenges and opportunities does big data create? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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