With all of the unstructured data in medical journals, doctors' notes, radiology images and faxes, IT vendors have been developing technology to help the health care industry make sense of all the loose data.
In 2012, vendors will continue to develop cloud databases and supercomputers such as IBM Watson to store and process large volumes of "big data" and allow doctors to use this information to personalize medical treatment, according to experts.
"We really see big data as the new frontier across all industries, specifically health care," Richard Cramer, chief health care strategist at data integration vendor Informatica, told CIO Insight sister publication eWEEK. "The next decade is going to be the data decade in health care."
Past and current data could bring clinical and financial risk to light and allow physicians to find the best treatment options, said Michael Lake, health care technology strategist and president of research firm Circle Square. "Big data, clinical analytics and personalized health will be huge in 2012," Lake predicted in a statement.
Personalized medicine provides physicians with a comprehensive understanding of a person's health and genomic makeup, rather than relying on a superficial understanding of other patients' histories.
In 2012, Nuance Communications will continue to develop its clinical language understanding (CLU) technology while integrated with IBM Watson's probabilistic data analytics to help doctors with decision support, Lake noted.
Making sense of big data from both medical literature and EHRs will be a challenge, Informatica's Cramer suggested.
"It's not just natural language processing and Watson and being able to mine the huge volume of medical literature and things that are out there, but it's also being able to pair that with the increasingly large volumes of discrete data that's going to be captured in electronic health records," said Cramer.
"Health care also has lots and lots of textural data that is in the clinician visit notes, and those things are going to be very hard to move to the discrete data that goes in the database, and so being able to pair that with natural language processing capabilities and bridge across those two things to us really is the landscape of big data in health care," he said.