Health / Pharma

Treating the Small Cell Cancer in Health Care’s Big Data

10th Jan `14, 07:09 AM in Health / Pharma

A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on marketers who specialize in identifying an individual’s health issues without…

BDMS
Guest Contributor
 

A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on marketers who specialize in identifying an individual’s health issues without ever accessing the medical records. They get the information by mining non-medical data sources, such as buying patterns, age, gender and cable TV subscriptions. It seems almost everyone has access to health care’s Big Data except for medical researchers.

Medical studies depend on data, and Big Data might turbocharge lifesaving research. However, regulatory and financial systems functionally discourage the use of patient data for research. The penalties for data breaches are severe, and the incentives to share are almost non-existent. Patients needlessly suffer and die as a result. Instead, our health care system should more effectively encourage data sharing to support medical research.

A few years ago, I worked on a project with the government. We hoped officials could use our analytics platform to facilitate health care research. To protect patient privacy, identifiers such as name, phone number and account number were removed. Consistent with HIPAA privacy rules, we went even further, such as only using age groups instead of specific patient ages and geography groups (such as state or county of residence) rather than individual addresses. We worked very hard to protect patient privacy while providing useful data to investigators doing life-saving medical research.

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