Data...as a Cure?
Data, when harnessed to its full potential, is powerful.
There’s no doubt in that. But, what exactly are its capabilities? Does it have limits? Could something like data be responsible for curing cancer?
What’s the Buzz About?
Last week, Greg Simon, the Executive Director of the White House’s Cancer Moonshot Taskforce was faced with this question at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference. His answer – as discussed in Fortune – brought up a lot to think about.
According to Simon, “We have in the health system, what is basically insider trading. I know something you don’t know. You know something I don’t know. When I need to know what you know, I call you, I email you. You fax me stuff.”
As highlighted by Fortune, Simon elaborated even further, “Everyone is in love with [data]. But, we still live in an information scarce medical world.” He mentioned that even though every stock transaction that has taken place since the 1920’s is a matter of record, gaining access to personal medical records is still a complicated challenge.
Room for Great Potential – Where to Start?
The good news, according to Simon, is that the data is out there. The medical records of most Americans are extensive. Doctors’ offices, clinics, and other providers collect hundreds of data points. The data has been collected; it’s there.
The potential is also there. When data is utilized to its full potential, it’s a game changer. Raw data can be analyzed with algorithms that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. Trends can be uncovered easily when the right systems and platforms are in place. Those trends could lead to medical breakthroughs – like cures for deadly diseases – that we’ve never even imagined to be possible.
The problem is in the middle – between the data that’s out there and how it could be harnessed – the problem lies in the culture, in the lack of sharing.
As Simon shared, most patients have trouble accessing their own medical records. If one provider needs information, that information must be signed for by the patient through an official request that’s faxed between offices – it’s a tedious process in which much data is never shared or communicated.
“Can [data] make a difference? Yes. But we have to change the culture of sharing,” Simon continued.
What’s the Solution?
Perhaps if information could be shared with fewer roadblocks, more breakthroughs would be possible. If researchers had access to the raw data that’s already being collected, but isn’t yet available due to regulations and concerns, there could be a change.
The technology exists; mobile data platforms that are designed specifically for the medical industry are available. The security is out there – with HIPAA laws, security is a top concern. However, the data needed to cure cancer and other deadly diseases requires no identifying information. The most important part is that secure technology exists.
Science is moving in that direction. As discussed recently in WIRED, biodata is the next big trend, it will solve what years of science have been unable to do on its own; it will lead to cures:
“[Cures] require a universe of data—exabytes worth—to detect patterns in a population, apply machine learning, find the network of mutations responsible for disease, and do something about it. The bigger these data sets become, the more accurate and powerful the models and the predictors become,” the article explains.
The data sets are out there, waiting to be used to their full potential. We believe in it. It’s why we do what we do.
We believe in the power of data that is not only collected properly, but managed in a way that tracks trends, creates alerts and drives innovation. The technology is being harnessed in other fields, in other industries, but it’s time for the medical industry to step up to the plate.
Could data cure cancer? Alzheimer’s? ALS? Why not? It will at least be a step in the right direction.
Could it start with your practice or clinic? Are there ways that you could take advantage of the data you already collect day in and day out? If you’re ready to make use of data in a way that’s beneficial to your patients and to the medical field in general, contact us today.