Tag Archives: Big Data

The BIG Data Talk and How it Can Improve Public Health

“U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other nation in the world – without obvious evidence of better outcome.” This problem may be solved by the proper use of big data.

There has been a lot of talk about big data lately. You might be wondering what this all means or how it can impact your work.

What do people mean by big data?

Big data refers to the collection of large data sets and its management for proper use. It is often considered as unstructured data. In terms of how it is applied to health, it is the idea of how it can be captured and stored effectively to be properly analyzed for correlations and valuable change in health improvement.

The best description I’ve heard of big data is by Todd Park when he describes it as “making data actionable.”

WIRED & RWJF talk big data

The WIRED magazine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently had a gathering of great minds in New York City, October 12-14. The conference engaged thought leaders in a groundbreaking conversation on the future of healthcare, one which focused solely on big data. Read Dr. Phred Pilkington’s, ePublic Health & Informatics workgroup member, summary of the conference here.

RWJF’s Steve Downs, chief technology officer, recently talked about Better Data = Better Health. For him, big data “is really an umbrella concept that speaks to the huge growth in the availability of data, and its ability to drive understanding, and ultimately improvements in health.” – via RWJF

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s president and CEO, said big data is like “watching the planet develop a nervous system.”

How might big data improve your work in public health?

Analysis of data sets:

•    Will give a clearer idea of areas of investment;
•    An emergence of innovation of new products in the industry;
•    A change to current business models;
•    More realistic short term to long term value;
•    Cost-effective measures; and
•    Proven best practices in prevention and treatment.

The list goes on.

This is only a preview of many more big data discussions to come. In the meantime, we want to hear from you.  How are you making use of big data within your community?

•    In what areas of your work would data be most useful?
•    Are you collecting data and making it actionable? How?

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Summary of WIRED Health Conference by Dr. Pilkington

On October 15-16, in New York City, the WIRED Health Conference in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation convened a conference to explore the challenges and opportunities of data-driven medicine. Featured speakers included geneticist Craig Venter, MIT’s Gig Hirsch, architect Michael Graves, and Intel’s Andy Grove. The subject was “Big Data”. The question was what is Big Data and what does it mean for health care providers and consumers?

The federal government has acknowledged this predicament and recently set aside more than $200 million to fund big data initiatives. Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded about $15 million to fund eight big data research projects. The awards will “ultimately help accelerate research to improve health — by developing methods for extracting important, biomedically relevant information from large amounts of complex data,” said NIH Director, Francis Collins in a press release. Other researchers are mining social media data to monitor the adverse effects of certain medications, and the NIH has also put the data from the 1000 Genomes Project in the cloud for other scientists to use.

The slate of sessions at the live-streamed WIRED conference showcased the many ways data can be deployed to improve health and wellness. Former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove issued a call to arms to free healthcare data, making his case for radical price transparency in medicine. Another session at the conference spotlighted the work of Nicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Laboratory at Harvard University who said, “there’s a lot of talk about personal data, but even more important than individuals’ wellness behavior is the way that networks of people affect each other’s health.” Craig Venter imagined a future where you can download software, print a vaccine, inject it, and presto! Contagion averted.

– Dr. William “Phred” Pilkington, Chief Executive Officer & Director of Public Health Cabarrus Health Alliance