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Big Data Could Revolutionize Healthcare. Will We Let it?

How can you support data in healthcare?

28Jan

We’re a pretty suspicious lot here in the UK.

Britain has the potential to be the world leader in Healthcare Big Data. We have (more or less) centralized NHS records dating back to the 1940s, and we have normalized personal data for each patient, which is far less fragmented than for the US, for example. We also have an innovative bioscience sector to work hand in hand with the findings.

The benefits of Big Data in Healthcare are considerable. The power to access and analyze enormous data sets can improve our ability to anticipate and treat illnesses. This data can help recognize individuals who are at risk for serious health problems. The ability to use big data to identify waste in the healthcare system can also lower the cost of healthcare across the board.

It all makes perfect sense, but, therefore, why did the government have to abort their first step in this direction just last year? It was about to create Care.data, a centralized collection of patient records that would truly transform UK healthcare. The reason that they cancelled it? Privacy concerns….

The timing of the announcement was unfortunate. It coincided with the Edward Snowden revelations, and the consensus was that Healthcare Big Data could lead to a big brother situation where government, employers and anyone else can access your private records. In actual fact, everyone would still have the option for their data to be private; it was merely poorly communicated.

In my view, this suspicion is temporary. The benefits for society are just too great, and they won’t be ignored for long. There are a number of high profile initiatives already making a huge difference to our future. As the benefits become more tangible, the naysayers will change their tune.

Venture capitalists invested nearly $700 million into US digital health startups in just the first quarter of 2014—that’s 87% year-over-year growth versus the first quarter of 2013.

In another example, Intel recently announced that it is working with the Michael J Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research on a new pilot initiative that is aimed at using data mined from wearable devices to detect patterns in the progression of the disease.

There are many, many other examples.

In my personal view, there is no reason to be so guarded. Society is becoming ultra-transparent, and soon there will be no hiding place. If someone wants to find out something about you, they will have the opportunity. In addition, with wearables fast becoming a part of our lives, we are in any case putting increasing amounts of information into the “cloud” about our personal lives.

In terms of practicality and functionality, the healthcare revolution may not happen overnight, but a more transparent healthcare system, more affordable care, and—ultimately—a healthier nation are definitely worth waiting for.

I’m proud to have an impact on the big data industry, no matter how small. If just one of my candidates has the potential to make even the slightest difference in the area of healthcare, then there is no higher motivation for me.

If I can contribute to ensuring a longer and healthier life for myself and my daughter, then why not?

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