Intended for healthcare professionals


What’s holding up the big data revolution in healthcare?

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 28 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5357

Holistic approaches to big data analytics deployment is needed

The authors make a valid point about the large amount of work that remains before "big data" and machine learning yields practical use to patient care. There indeed needs to be more knowledgeable personnel to collect, curate, and clean data before they could be used to train models of any relevance.

However, even more basic than these are thresholds of acceptability and behavioural changes that clinicians need to cross before data tools get used. Semmelweis discovered the importance of handwashing in the mid-1800s, and still today, in the 21st century, infection control audits need to be enforced on clinicians to encourage hand hygiene in clinical areas.[1]

Many barriers to implementation need to be overcome yet. Perhaps collaborative research with social scientists adept at qualitative techniques need to be done at the same time as developing big data techniques in order to understand the real world hurdles to uptake in clinical practice. Then as the technology matures, clinicians would be ready to apply it.

[1] WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: First Global Patient Safety Challenge Clean Care Is Safer Care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009. 4, Historical perspective on hand hygiene in health care.

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 December 2018
Danny J. N. Wong
Research Fellow
National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia Health Services Research Centre, Royal College of Anaesthetists
London, UK