Organizations like Direct Relief and New York State’s health information exchange network are leveraging data visualization tools and big data analytics to provide better access to medical records for hospitals that were forced by the hurricane this week to evacuate patients. Other effects from the mountains of data generated by people during the crisis were not so helpful.
In an eWeek article, Brian Horowitz said that when a backup generator failed at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, hospital workers shuttled patients to other local facilities, while the HIE helped shuttle their medical records along with them. About 78 percent of hospitals in the New York City area are connected to the HIE. The process helped provide continuity in the level of care for patients.
In addition, Direct Relief, an emergency response organization, used analytic and data visualization tools from Palantir Technologies to determine which parts of the region might need equipment, health resources, food, and shelter. It also helped Direct Relief see potential supply chain bottlenecks in areas where medication and supplies might be needed. As these systems are used in future disasters the comparative data can help relief and health care organizations estimate and plan for supplies and resources.
Analytics was well applied prior to the storm as well. A B2C article graphically showed some of the data used by weather professionals in the U.S. and Europe to determine the storm’s landfall, a location that was quite uncertain according to some models but became more clear when more data was added to the models regarding adjacent weather patterns. In the meantime, Johns Hopkins University provided utility companies with projections on how many people would go powerless–and where–by analyzing data from outages resulting from 11 previous hurricanes and modeling wind speed, wind gusts, and population density.
Then there was the Twitterverse and the challenge big data faces in making sense of all its unstructured data. In Forbes, Venkatesh Rao wrote of the odd mix of fake and real pictures emerging from New York, which he called the sewage stream, and the efforts to distinguish between the two in real-time.
“This is media as hypnotic/surreal collective hallucination,” Rao said. “Watching CNN alongside this is like watching a black and white movie. I think this is the first time America is properly experiencing its own new technologies. America might have finally found its own #iranelection/Haiti/Fukushima type social media coming-of-age event.”
He said this event, meaning the professional and citizen brigades’ documentation of it, will reshape the media landscape. “Watching news anchors pretending they still had control of the story was funny and sad at the same time,” Rao said. “Mainstream media ended up portraying Sandy-like an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, and themselves as completely out of touch.”
He said that in the new world of instant social media, traditional media outlets will need to figure out what their role truly is. Mobile devices and big data technologies can deliver what he calls a knockout punch, or they can help the media define its role, perhaps as a group with the job of sorting out all the fake information from the real and useful.