World Diabetes Day: Big Data Analytics can help manage the disorder

Worldwide, diabetes is a leading public health concern which affects over 422 million people and results in 1.5 million mortalities every year, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

hidden November 15, 2016 11:18:28 IST
World Diabetes Day: Big Data Analytics can help manage the disorder

By Muqbil Ahmar

Worldwide, diabetes is a leading public health concern which affects over 422 million people and results in 1.5 million mortalities every year, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). In India,it is growing at an alarming rate, with the country home to over 65.1 million people living with the disease, particularly as the youth switch to Western fast food. Factors such as faulty nutrition, physically inactive lifestyle, and genetic predisposition are progressively fuelling the disorder.With about 9% of the adult population suffering from diabetes, urgent measures are needed for treatment and management. Adherence to medication, exercise and diet programs and continuous monitoring of glycemic goals are needed for a successful program. Studies have, however, shown that less than 50% of the affected achieve glycemic goals and adherence rates are low.

Big Data Analytics can help in continuous monitoring
Modern technologies such as Big Data and Analytics can be leveraged to manage the disease better. Big Data tools can help doctors monitor patients’ well-being in real time from remote locations and identify adherence issues.Apart from the blood sugar level, other vital parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar are also continuously tracked through sensors placed on the patients’ body. The data is then transmitted through smart devices to doctors. In fact, the pharmacy and the physician are both alerted when scheduled medication is missed. The history and profile of patientscan also be stored along with continuous monitoring of other related factors such as impact of food and exercise and adherence to medication. This corpus of data is analysed, stored and transmitted to doctors, who can monitor and respond appropriately. Such tools can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life.

“The Big Data revolution is underway and it can certainly be leveraged for an efficient and optimal monitoring of diabetes and its management. In a situation where there are millions of patients receiving suboptimal care, the long and tedious task can be very well taken care of. Particularly, in Third World Countries such as ours, the tools can be effective in bringing down the expensive procedures of monitoring and management. All we need to do is to leverage Big Data Analytics,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera, a cloud technology firm that recently developed a Big Data tool. It can also predict whether patients would adhere to medication. It can also help build models to foretell the effectiveness of medications and assess the risk of complications.

Use of such technologies is particularly significant for Third World countries as it has the potential to lower healthcare costs. Global research firm McKinsey projects that the use of Big Data in healthcare can reduce the healthcare data management expenses by $300–$500 billion. In a data-driven approach to health, machine learning too can come in handy and can aid in developing predictive models and estimating risk factors for diabetes. Claims data, pharmacy records, and laboratory results could spot risk factors. New models are better than current models in predicting disease onset by around 50%.

In conclusion
According to a Lancet study, the number of diabetics has increased four times. The numbers have risen from 108 million (1980) to 422 million (2014), with half of them living in India, China, USA, Brazil and Indonesia.China, India and the USA have the highest number of diabetics. Prevalence could double by 2030, with the maximum increase predicted to come from India. The financial burden could be enormous for a country like India.

In such a scenario, the benefits of the Big Data revolution cannot be emphasised enough. Before the disorder acquires epidemic proportions, new cutting edge technologies can be utilised to tame it in multidimensional ways.

With over 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, the author is a technology evangelist and avid blogger.

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