What happens when you fill in that medical history questionnaire?
A new doctor or a new office or sometimes it’s a routine visit… how many times have you filled in your personal medical information – from your address and insurance information down to the significant (or awkward) events of your medical history – the illness, the surgery, the procedure? Not only is this excruciatingly private information, but it’s also important to you that it is accurate, timely AND secure.
Every time you write you name and information on a form a person has to read it, interpret it, and most likely enter it in some electronic form for a structured data base. Will they get it right? Would you know if they did or did not translate it correctly?
An entire job industry exists for medical data entry. Not only are non-medical strangers reading your personal medical information time after time, but the potential for information to be incorrectly interpreted with errors in spelling, dates, treatments and more is possible. The data entry employee or outsourced contractor is not medically trained, and they are only human as far as reading and entering name after name. YOUR name and affliction and treatment are just a blip in the daily grind.
Big Data Health Records
Big Data can enhance the way we gather and utilize the volume, velocity and variety of information about our individual health in context with the world with which we interact. Big Data Health begins with the accuracy of your permanent or not so permanent medical record, but like all things Big Data, it extends information in a new capacity. There’s a lot missing from your record; let’s find it.
From Digital Capture to Digital Nervous System
The first step to robust medical record keeping is switching from the digital capture system where you hand write a form and then it’s put in a data base. In a digital nervous system the patient directly enters the information into the data base. This removes the archaic pen and paper to database system.
Each doctor visit would begin with a tailored, private upload of medical information for the caregiver’s reference. The visits would conclude with a download of the notes, recommendations, and follow up requests. The Big Data Health Record would check for accuracy and track results.
The Digital Nervous System effect doesn’t stop at the door of that doctor either. Like your banking information remains the same no matter where you go, so should your medical information. It travels with you, ideally as a cloud element accessible through your phone or other connectivity devices.
This new connection to your health information affords a new opportunity to take advantage of Big Data volume, variety and velocity. The visits to the doctor are not the only data points in your health. Your blood pressure and blood sugar constantly change, so what it was at the doctor’s office is a slim slice of observation. A Big Data Health Record would incorporate the appointments, procedures, and conditions which are discrete information and also integrate continuous data flow from your digital exhaust, including cell phones and wearables, such as fitness bands.
Apple Health and Google Fit have begun to tap this potential. Each app utilizes sensors for a limited amount of automatic data collection. Additional apps enhance the depth of information that can be caught and carried, but manual data entry is still quite burdensome. As wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) increases the prevalence of sensors, these apps will build more robust pictures of lifestyle activity. Today’s apps can provide some information to a caregiver in an emergency, like a medical alert for allergies or specific health conditions.
A Big Data Health Record would collect information through a more comprehensive algorithm of sensors. It would communicate medical alert conditions that also allow emergency personnel access to the specific conditions of an onset of critical care, as well as provide a comprehensive description of their circumstances prior to an incident. Those without specific health alert conditions would still have ready access to their entire medical background whether at the gym or the hospital or the doctor.
For those traveling, having your health record today would be a luxury or a risk depending on your perspective. For the most part, you hope you won’t need that when you leave home; however, when you do need it, it would greatly enhance your quality of care to be able to access that information in another city or another country. A Big Data Health Record would understand the health requirements, such as immunizations and health risks, availability of medications or health providers, before you take that trip too.
Having your complete medical history available to you also allows you the opportunity to research the your test results, procedures and treatments in the privacy of your home. It affords the opportunity to find out what other effects are people with your circumstances asking about or reporting as their experience.
You in the World
The collective information of a multitude of cars and cell phone apps depicts a presentation of traffic flow to everyone. From that, you also receive the benefit of specific information relevant to you – like where you are in that traffic or how to avoid being in it. In the same thread, your anomyzed health information can contribute to a medical geography. In return you can appreciate your health risks and opportunities within that context.
Health officials track metrics about the population in order to provide public safety. They use discrete data points in regard to specific threats as required by legal authority. Big Data does not have the same operating restraints. Search engine requests provide as much information as the results of those searches. What the population searches for easily identifies what they want to find – a product, service or information.
The oracle of search engines, Google had been able to predict flu outbreaks weeks before the traditional methods of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Google did this by analysis of search requests for information about flu associated terms. This “nowcast” shook up predictive analysis in 2008 with much applause, providing specific flu information weeks before the CDC … until it didn’t. The effectiveness wore off. In 2013 Google missed the peak flu by 140%.
It’s not just a Google thing either. Social media giant cohort Twitter has been credited – or accused – of predicting the stock market, earthquakes and heart attacks. The epic failure of Google’s Flu Trends (GFT) and Twitter’s influence though are continued proof of the power of Big Data. Like all power, it’s corruptible. In the case of Big Data though, it’s not the people who are corrupt; it is the algorithms or the methodology.
Big Data is volume, variety and velocity. The power is chaotic, so any patterns are highly sensitive to initial conditions for the result. The signal in the noise is still a hefty ambition. The predictive analytic power is not a stasis either. The GFT “solution” was accurate initially but the algorithm decayed over a given periodicity. Past results are not a given predictor of future returns.
We must remember that technology remains a tool of humanity. -Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google
Back to your doctor
Does your doctor diagnose correctly every time? Of course, not; he or she is human. Doctors have years of training to follow a scientific method. Their predictive analysis is built around their experience and the medical education that generations before have built through research and word of mouth. Scientifically, that’s a lot of bias.
Does your doctor know ALL the latest scientific research results? Maybe some, but not ALL of it. Doctors provide a solution based on what they’ve learned as a person applied with what they’ve learned about you. Although personalized, it’s an extremely small data pull. But he can look you in the eye and tell you his best idea. There’s certain value to that and it is a concept we as society have benefitted from in the past. Broader and more comprehensive treatment options weren’t available.
With Big Data, health assessment evolves out of those limitations.
Where in the World
Big Data enables a more robust portrait of YOU – detailed information of you and your lifestyle as well as you relative to your environment – geographically and statistically. What is the state of health in your neighborhood, city, state and country? Are there higher rates of flu or allergies? Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes – what is your specific risk in regard to where you live and what lifestyle you have? Wouldn’t that information give you better ability to make choices about your health?
A Big Data Health Record is “always on” and it monitors the infinite set of variables in your environment as well as the results. You take actions like medications, diets, or treatments with the intention to encourage certain benefits but is that what happens? What other effects happen concurrently?
The Big Data Health Records is new technology but it’s also a new perspective on health self-management. Your health picture is so much more vivid when colored with the volume, velocity and variety of data available