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The power of data

Within the Healthcare sector, innovative organisations are developing unique approaches of managing data, enabling businesses to make more effective business decisions.

Ginger.io mines and interprets data collected through smartphone usage. The business concept was founded during a PhD study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. During the study students were given smartphones which tracked their behaviour over the next few weeks: where they went, who they texted, and the frequency of calls and texts.

Data obtained during the study indicated when students were ill by signalling when individuals derived from their typical behavioural patterns. This change in behaviour accurately predicted cases of flu and depression among the student body.

The technology supplied by Ginger.io and similar innovative businesses enables the capture and synthesis of large scale real-time data. The scope of the application of this technology is vast and Ginger.io are currently developing applications that can be used within the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and insurance industry. But the technology’s application could extend far beyond these areas.

The technology itself is derived from a branch of computer science called machine learning. Using this approach, applications are built with algorithms allowing computers to predict behaviours based on data obtained through devices – in Ginger.io’s case, smartphones.

As well as the Healthcare industry, this business concept is becoming increasingly more critical for the insurance industry. The insurance industry is data intensive, and organisations are having to deal with continually increasing volumes of information, and at the same time, increase the speed of decision making.

Big data is a term that refers to the massive amounts of data businesses are having to deal with. A study by McKinsey has shown that an organisation optimising their use of big data can improve margins up to 60%. Using technologies, such as Ginger.io’s, organisations can aggregate large data populations and subsets with increasing efficiency. Patterns and trends can be found, and as such, inferences can be made among specific consumer groups allowing businesses to identify groups of individuals at higher levels of risks on a number of different issues.

Accenture have predicted a number of Insurance Industry Technology Trends for 2012, which purports that the use of analytics to gain customer insights will become increasingly important for insurance companies this coming year. Innovative applications, like those developed by Ginger.io will be critical for large insurance organisations to gain and sustain a competitive edge, which is especially relevant in the more developed markets where competition is fierce.

Organisations are already exploiting the data intense nature of the insurance industry. Bupa for example owns Health Dialog, who are a care management, healthcare analytics and decision support company based in Boston, USA. Among the range of business services they offer are analytical solutions which allow their clients to delve into the deep depths of their customers data. Health Dialog’s services can be leveraged to identify cost-savings and areas which could potentially lead to business opportunity.

This increasing challenges being fueled by a data intensive environment also demands specific skills – researching, analysis, synthesis and so on… There has been a proven correlation between grasping big data and business success, so for the foreseeable future organisations will be seeking individuals with proven skills in this field.

Many industries will be responding to the current economic downturn by engaging in cost cutting and efficiency improvements. The bottom line for these organisations, and those situated in more prosperous climates, is that enhanced performance in data analytics allows for the acceleration of data-driven decision making and can facilitate a more accurate understanding of the customer base.

This post is based on an article from Business Week Jan 9-15 2012, titled “The Nurse in Your Pocket”. 

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