Big data benefits many industries, healthcare in particular, where access to data can result in earlier and more accurate diagnoses, better disease management, enhanced efficiencies and improved outcomes. The possibilities are even greater when truly large stores of data are available for analysis. A wide and deep data pool fuels real-time analysis, trustworthy predictive analytics, and profound learning--smaller data sets simply can’t reveal the big picture.

The flood of information captured by diagnostic imaging systems, health monitoring devices, and electronic medical records have ensured that we don’t have to worry about a healthcare data drought. IDC predicts that U.S. healthcare data alone will grow to 2,314 exabytes by 2020 (one exabyte is equal to 1 billion gigabytes), up from a mere 150 exabytes in 2010. A significant amount (about 75%- 80%, according to studies by Gartner, IDC and IBM) of healthcare data is unstructured – images, graphics, videos, text messages, notes, recordings of conversations, transmissions from sensors and medical monitoring devices, and more -- and can’t be neatly organized into a relational database.

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