The leading organizations are leveraging big data and analytics at their fingertips to help them make better business and clinical decisions. Like you said, the key first step is getting access to that data, so now many places are in the process of aggregating and applying it. I think a relevant and good example is in the case of hospital readmissions. Using the data that you have on patients to predict if they have a high likelihood of being readmitted can definitely help in keeping them from coming back. Certainly this is a necessity, as a recent Kaiser Health News report revealed that most of the hospitals in the Readmissions Reduction Program are losing Medicare dollars.
In my opinion, the potential of big data in healthcare is sky-high. When you factor in the patient-generated health data that is beginning to flow into the system, medical professionals will be able to better solve problems much easier than ever before. And the surface is just beginning to be scratched! Obviously there are plenty of challenges surrounding big data, ranging from technical difficulties to data ownership and privacy concerns, but with each passing day, big data is becoming more than just a buzz word in health IT.