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How Will Big Data Remake Medicine?

Jacqueline Vanacek, SAP


In ten years, eighty percent of the work people do in medicine will be replaced by technology.  And medicine will not look anything like what it does today. Those stunning possibilities were shared by Dr. John Mattison, Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO) of Kaiser Permanente and Panelist at DatumFora’sDATA 360 event in Silicon Valley.

Healthcare will change enormously as it becomes a data-driven industry. Yet the risks and challenges are equally large. It was estimated that 90% of all healthcare institutions will experience a data breach of some kind. Many already have. Each breach costs about $2M in fines, not to mention the loss of privacy and other incalculable costs to the patient.

Sanjay Joshi, CTO of Life Sciences at EMC Isilon, highlighted examples from many states in which patient data was breached because of improper data handling or poor IT governance, cyber theft, technical failures, malicious insiders. In one case, hospital records were even sold on eBay.

Joshi also spoke about the vulnerability of our health data sets in how anonymized data sets shared with state health agencies are sometimes sold to data miners who can reverse engineer that data to find out who we are.

According to Harvard’s Data Privacy Lab, “states have long sold medical data to help finance public health studies.” And while all agree that digitized medical data can help physicians better tailor treatments by patient history, or identify health trends to benefit public health, sophisticated hacking makes our health data even more vulnerable.

Today’s assortment of compliance regulations, with a host of proprietary data standards and formats, impede our ability to secure the data so we can integrate it and share among stakeholders to create new healthcare models.

As we explore the technical and policy issues above, there are many advances underway at the intersection of healthcare and technology. While we keep hearing about advances in personal genomics, here are a few more.

For example, White House Innovation Fellow Adam Dole, former entrepreneur-in-residence at the Mayo Clinic , spoke about the Blue Button Initiative and its parent My Data Initiative. The Blue Button Initiative allows patients to view online and download their personal health records. Its intent is to make our complete health data available to us, as patients and consumers, so we can interact more proactively with clinicians in ways that enhance our quality of life, lead to better treatment outcomes and reduce costs in care delivery. Its parent My Data Initiative, which the White House Innovation Fellows are expanding, combines additional data from our academic records, energy consumption and more.

The greatest value of big data for all industries comes from combining it across different domains to yield actionable insights for new business models. For example, Cloudera COO Kirk Dunn referenced how financial service providers are unifying ways to more creatively serve customers across banking, credit cards, mortgages and insurance.

Securing, managing and deleting the data in this model, in our hyper-connected mobile-cloud world, is a multi-dimensional challenge. We discussed issues and architectures for that at last week’s cloud and mobility conference at the National Institute of Standards.And Kaiser Permanente CMIO John Mattison envisioned a healthcare model in which medical devices, wearables, diagnostic tools and analytics could better empower people and their families to better care for themselves at home. In this model, real-time data alerts would also trigger healthcare providers to intervene as needed.

The real breakthrough of big data will be in mashing huge volumes into what John Mattison calls “value sets” that combine our medical science knowledgebase with personal data to prioritize our treatment options based on expected outcome, timing, cost, risk and impact on daily life.

While this new vision for integrated healthcare sounds idyllic, we have a lot of work to do in how we harness big data to make it real.

But the question that remains in my mind, which I posed to the group at DATA 360, is this:

Since healing is nurtured by our human connections, yet we expect technology to replace many of them, how do we reconcile the inconsistencies – and what might be the social consequences of this that we cannot yet see?


Follow @JacquelnVanacek for how cloud, mobile, social media and big data are reinventing our world.  


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