Rich Crocco

The Future of Healthcare: Big Data & IoT

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Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to redefine many industries including retail, automotive and healthcare among others. Healthcare is the sector I want to focus on here. How will IoT affect doctors, healthcare administrators & patients in the coming years? Do we like these changes?


Big Data

The healthcare industry has always been a form of Big Data center. Look behind the counter at your doctor or dentist’s office and you will see thousands of files invariably organized alphabetically and taking up rows of valuable space. What these industries lacked was sufficient technology to organize and use that data effectively. For instance, if you changed doctors your information had to be manually transferred to your new doctor. All that is changing with the use of Big Data techniques and IoT.

Companies such as IBM are working on “a solution that connects every single data source and analyzes structured, unstructured and real-time data.” Solutions like these are meant to pull together information from multiple sources including data from sensors (Fitbit, Apples Watch, etc.), public health records, insurance claims, family health history, etc. If all this information is pulled together and effectively analyzed, the patient would ultimately benefit. Imagine a healthcare database which included all possible relevant data to help with the diagnosis and care of a patient. The patient’s access to expertise just went from the local doctor’s office to worldwide.

IBM’s Watson Health Cloud may be the most popular version of an all-encompassing healthcare supercomputer yet.  Watson, an Artificial Intelligence Supercomputer built by IBM, gained notoriety after becoming a champion on the quiz show Jeopardy. With the help of strategic acquisitions and partnerships by IBM with companies like Johnson & Johnson and Apple, Inc. Watson Health Cloud has become arguably the largest medical database in the world.  With this database, healthcare companies and other technologies like mobile wellness apps can tap into the vast knowledge of Watson to benefit their patients and customers.



There are many IoT innovations coming to the market which will improve the patient experience as well as improve healthcare administration. Some examples include:

MediSafe – a mobile app that alerts family and friends if the patient has not taken their prescribed medication on time.

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Perfint Healthcare – created MAXIO, a robot assistant designed to assist cancer doctors with diagnostics, treatment and surgery.

Lift Labs – “makes a spoon designed to cancel the effects of tremors caused by neurodegenerative diseases”.   The product uses sensors to detect hand tremors.

These are just a few of a long list of products improving the experience of healthcare professionals and patients. More are on the way as innovators find new ways of using sensors to report useful information.


Security is always a concern with these databases and devices.  For example, IBM must have access to a wealth of information for Watson to be effective. This is obviously going to include private medical information as well as public. According to IBM, Watson will include both anonymized information to be used in analysis of large populations and personalized data to be accessed by the individual or their doctor. According to John Kelley, SVP of Solutions Research at IBM, when speaking about Watson medical information, “When it comes through your doctor or hospital, it will be re-identified for you but no one else, so we can get the information back to you and your doctor as you see fit.”

IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty is staking her claim on Watson’s ability to change the way we manage and consume healthcare, by improving patient care and reducing healthcare costs. How do you feel about artificial intelligence taking over some of the duties normally reserved for doctors? Please leave me your comments.

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