Big Data in Healthcare: Careers of the Future

Learn how big data is changing healthcare and why this is a growing field for technology professionals. Study health informatics online at Kent State.

Student researching data in healthcare

Big data has revolutionized industry after industry, and the demand for professionals specializing in big data has increased accordingly, with the number of data scientist positions in the U.S. growing by 650 percent between 2012 and 2018.1 Many of these positions are in fields like technology, energy or telecommunications, and those fields tend to be what people imagine when they think of big data. But big data has also been responsible for helping directly change—and even save—lives.

In the early-to-mid-2010s, experts predicted that big data would revolutionize healthcare through wearable devices, fitness apps, personalized medicine, epidemic research, and perhaps even lead to a cure for cancer.2 In the ensuing years, many of these speculations have begun to come true.

The benefits of big data in healthcare are threefold. Big data in healthcare has led to:

  1. Better patient experiences (including both quality of treatment and patient satisfaction)
  2. Improved health of the overall population
  3. Reduced healthcare costs

8 Ways Big Data Has Changed the Face of Healthcare

  1. Predicting Staffing Needs: How many workers should be on staff at a time? By analyzing the data, hospitals are able to see patterns and predict how many patients to expect. From there, they can determine what kind of staffing needs will address this need.3
  2. Electronic Health Records (EHR): These integrate a patient’s entire health history, which can lead to better and more effective care. This avoids redundancies or unnecessary testing and can indicate when it’s time for a patient to schedule an appointment or allow doctors to see if patients have been complying with their orders.3
  3. Real-Time Alerting: Patients can now wear devices to track their health information and vitals. If something concerning happens, such as a spike in blood pressure, the proper medical professional can be alerted and reach out to the patient right away. These same tracking devices can also be used to examine the overall health of specific affected populations, such as asthmatics, to better determine how to help them.3
  4. Patient Involvement: If patients are able to see their own health data and potential health risks, they may feel motivated and empowered to make healthier choices, improving their overall health and potentially reducing how frequently they need medical care.3
  5. Fighting Opioid Abuse: Big data specialists have collaborated with hospitals to determine predictors of opioid abuse, which can help those hospitals identify patients at risk of abusing opioids in the future. Hospitals can thus monitor and support these patients before an addiction even begins.4
  6. Cancer Research: Finding a cure for cancer is a complicated and ambitious undertaking. Big data is bringing us closer to achieving this goal by making it easier to sequence DNA, and to develop models to explore diagnosis and treatment options.5
  7. Fraud Reduction: There are so many healthcare providers and so much information related to healthcare that it can be difficult to catch healthcare fraud, such as auto-refill prescription fraud. This fraud can be costly for Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies. Big data analytics makes it easier to identify possible perpetrators, and with the addition of machine learning, it may be possible to take a proactive approach to catch even more fraud in action.6
  8. Telemedicine: Healthcare no longer requires that the patient and the practitioner be in the same physical location. This can be convenient and save time without cutting down on quality of care. For example, physicians can monitor a patient’s vitals and recovery at a distance, so the patient only needs to come in for follow-up appointments if necessary.7

High Demand for Big Data Professionals in Healthcare

According to Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, data will increasingly play a role in improving healthcare at multiple levels, including productivity among clinicians, making health systems more effective, and helping patients better understand their conditions and treatments. But as he points out, professionals with backgrounds in data have largely gone to work in the corporate world, especially at tech companies—not in healthcare. While this may be a challenge for the healthcare industry, it’s good news for working professionals in data looking for a career option that will help them make a difference in people’s lives.8

Big Data Healthcare Job Titles9,10

  • Data Architect or Data Analyst
  • Implementation Specialist
  • Care Coordinator
  • Chief Experience Officer
  • Chief Population Health Officer
  • VP, Cost Containment
  • Chief Clinical Transformation Officer
  • VP, Clinical Information
  • VP, Medical Management
  • Healthcare Data Scientist
  • Healthcare Information Administrator
  • Healthcare Policy Specialist
  • Onsite Clinic Administrator
  • Healthcare Consultant

Bringing expertise in big data to the healthcare industry can allow you to make a measurable difference in people’s lives. And the intersection of big data and healthcare a growing area with plentiful opportunities for motivated, hard-working individuals.10

If you have a background in technology and are looking to join a growing field, an online Master of Science in Health Informatics or a Postbaccalaureate Certificate from Kent State University will prepare you for success at the crossroads of technology and healthcare.


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Technology has changed almost every aspect of the way we live and work, including our approach to healthcare. Medical providers, clinical facilities and payers are increasingly adopting technology that can help them achieve the goals of higher-quality care at lower cost. Health informatics is a rapidly growing field, fusing the knowledge of technology with the desire to improve patient care. As the field grows, a competitive health informatics salary can be part of a fulfilling career.