Big data is a major potential area of opportunity in health care.

And investors would do well to keep a close eye on it. Especially when companies start putting serious money behind decisions made based on predictive analytics.

Cigna (NYSE:CI), for example, recently signed a deal with AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) which could have big implications for both companies. Cigna will allow AstraZeneca's statin Crestor to be prescribed without prior authorization provided its computer model indicates that the patient is at a higher risk of atherosclerosis. This would help assure that members who need to go straight on Crestor -- instead of another statin -- are able to move to Crestor quickly. Typically, members have to go through traditional "step therapy" where they must try cheaper generics first.

Of course, IBM (NYSE:IBM) is a major player with Watson and its incredible potential to help identify appropriate treatment regimens with big data.

In the video below, from Market Checkup, the Motley Fool's health care-focused investing show, health care analysts Michael Douglass and David Williamson talk about big data and the exciting opportunities in this area.

David Williamson owns shares of Apple. Michael Douglass owns shares of Athenahealth and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Athenahealth and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.