August 20th, 2014
The July 2014 issue of Health Affairs covers a broad range of opportunities for use of Big Data in health care that will benefit individuals, the public at-large, and health care enterprises.
Big Data are getting bigger every day, as people create data while simply living their lives. They check into online social networks, use the global positioning system (GPS) feature on their smartphones, charge retail purchases on credit cards, don wearable devices that track activity, and record food intake on mobile apps. All of these activities leave a trail of digital “exhaust” in the Internet cloud.
In the era of Big Data in health care, such consumer-generated data can be mashed up with large sets of clinical information to yield rich insights for an N of 1—for a patient, a consumer—to drive cures for rare diseases, gain insights into complex chronic conditions, and anticipate public health epidemics. When consumers consciously and willingly contribute their personal data under fully transparent conditions for clinical research and population health, it can be seen as data used “for good.”
In Here’s Looking at You: How Personal Health Information Is Being Tracked and Used, published by California HealthCare Foundation on July 15, I discuss the opportunities to drive research and knowledge through adding consumers’ individual “small” data into Big Data analytics. The report looks at some developments, such as the consumer adoption of wearable technology in health care—smart watches, digital health trackers, and sensor-laden clothing (like smart running shoes and sports bras)—that enable people to collect, track, and analyze data on themselves. People managing chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes can use digital health technologies, such as using a Bluetooth-enabled inhaler (for asthma) or tracking blood glucose and diet through mobile health apps (for diabetes), to help them prevent a visit to the doctor’s office or, more acutely, the emergency department. Soon, connected homes and cars in an Internet-of-things world will be able to collect information on the health and activities of people that can populate algorithms and feed actionable advice back to a patient—for example, to increase a dose of insulin or to use an inhaler device to avert asthma symptoms. Read the rest of this entry »