The Role of Big Data in Healthcare

Big data, interoperability, and patient engagement were the topics of discussion during one of the opening keynote sessions at the World Health Care Congress held March 22-25 in Washington, DC.

Big data, interoperability, and patient engagement were the topics of discussion during one of the opening keynote sessions at the World Health Care Congress held March 22-25 in Washington, DC.

Victor Dzau, MD, president of the Institute of Medicine challenged that most people who discuss big data “don’t know what they’re talking about.” Rather than just being about the information flowing into electronic health records, big data is really about everything to do with the individual, including social interactions and activities.

“It’s about the totality of the patient,” he said.

John Niederhuber, MD, chief executive officer of the Inova Translational Medicine Institute, added that the healthcare industry needs to understand as much about the patient as early in life as possible and better understand the progression of health issues like chronic diseases as opposed to managing care in an episodic fashion.

“The healthcare system that we are so familiar with … has really focused on the patient coming in that is already sick,” Dr Niederhuber said.

However, he added, those changes often did not just happen a week or month ago. The healthcare system would benefit from learning and understanding as much about the individual from as early in life as possible to providers can begin to see and understand the progression of disease.

Given the large amount of information, and the already heavy workload facing physicians, Dr Dzau believes the physician should be a user, but not be responsible for analyzing and integrating the information.

Dr Niederhuber expects that eventually artificial intelligence may come into play in order to manage the information flowing in. For now, there will be another layer of employees with a certain level of healthcare knowledge who will be hired to filter the information before it reaches the higher trained providers, particularly primary care physicians.

“Otherwise I don’t see how we afford this system,” he said.